The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Read by the author. I had this book in hard cover. I got the audiobook via Libby to help me start it. It became so engrossing that I listened to it completely and flipped through the book for the photos. I like when a book is narrated by the author. I really liked this book because it balanced the story of a library’s awful fire with the people who worked there. It’s also a love story to libraries in general. Like the author, I have very fond memories of the library as a child. It had a good history of California and Los Angeles as well. I regret not going to the LA Central Library when I was there in 2018 which was the year this book was published. Wow, 2018 was six years ago. Great read and recommended to all library lovers.

Setting: Los Angeles, CA, USA.

1.25x. Feb 2-6, 2024.

The Princess and the Grilled Cheese by Deya Muniz

So cute. Diverse, funny, and lighthearted YA graphic novel. It had one of my favourite tropes: woman cross dressing as a man. I liked the manga style in colour. Really fun and quick. Now I have a big grilled cheese craving.

Setting: Alternate Europe.

Feb 6, 2024.

Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World by Gretchen Rubin

Read by the author. Another easy listening weekday audiobook. I generally like Ruben’s methods and ideas about improving one’s life. I liked her emphasis on routines and trying new things in this one. This audiobook comes with a PDF as well which I will peruse to see if I can incorporate any of the ideas. I preferred the style and ideas of this book over Rubin’s last one. Her books are easy listening.

Setting: New York City.

1.5x. Feb 6-8, 2024.

My Aunt Is a Monster by Reimena Yee

I adored Séance Tea Party last year. I do like the themes of found family and female relationships carried through both books. I found myself less engaged in the art and the story of this book though. There were actual villains and an antihero whom I was less interested in. The latter was less developed than I would have liked.

Setting: Alternate Earth.

Feb 8-9, 2024.

The Provincial Lady Goes Further by E. M. Delafield (The Provincial Lady #2)

Narrated by Georgina Sutton. I actually liked this one more than the last one. This series became bed time listening. It was low stakes, amusing diary entries with social history. I remember reading other diary books when I was younger like the Princess Diaries and Adrian Mole, but this was better written. The only annoying aspect of this book was the Pamela character. Other than that, I am liking this lighthearted series from the 1930s. I have already queued up the next one.

Setting: England.

1.0x. Feb 3-10, 2024.

How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by KC Davis

Narrated by the author. I put this on my to read list last year when I was going through things mentally. I am glad to say that I am in a better headspace now but I still wanted to read this book. It’s a short book so mileage varies on how much you can get out of it. It’s more on changing perspective care tasks and yourself. I like that tasks should not be tagged with moral values and that not doing something does not mean I am a bad or lazy person. I think I could reread it in ebook or print to absorb certain ideas. Not sure I will use any of the tips but it was a good listen.

1.6x. January 30-Feb 2, 2024.

Monstress, Vol 8: Inferno by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda

This is such a crazy comic book series. This installment has more “What the hell is going on?” questions rather than the revelations of the last one. There is one big one in here. I continue to love the wildness of the story and the artwork though.

Setting: High fantasy sci-fi alternate universe.

January 31-Feb 2, 2024.

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

Miss Marple #7. Damn Christie is good. You think you get some of her twists but then she turns it on you once more. I only wish there was more Miss Marple in these stories. I love her more than I do Poirot as her methods are so cunning.

Setting: London, UK.

Feb 3, 2024.

What You Are Looking For is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama, translated by Alison Watts

I had this on ebook but I was able to score an Express copy via my library’s Bookmobile. How I love the library and that it has a bookmobile. The book has short, interconnected stories centred around a local library and the enigmatic librarian who helped the patrons. The stories were very Japanese as almost all of them deal with work, employment, or lackthereof and how the characters relate to it. I think most people would find some aspects of the book very cheesey almost saccharine. For me it worked because I like the wholesome and cozy messages about books, libraries, and how readers interpret and interact. It was a good companion to The Library Book which I also listened to during the same week.

Setting: Tokyo, Japan.

Feb 4-5, 2024.

Diary of Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield

Narrated by Georgina Sutton. This was a short and often amusing autobiographical novel and diary from the 1920s. I needed something lighter after I finished the ACOSF and for my first work week back. It was nice to have in the evenings. I wouldn’t say it was the funniest book I’ve read but a couple of moments were very funny. I would keep going. Narration was good except the French was intentionally mangled.

Setting: Devonshire, UK, London, and a bit in South of France.

1.1x audiobook. Jan 22-24, 2024.

Raw Dog by Jamie Loftus

Narrated by the author. I’ve heard the author on podcasts and this was a Reading Glasses recommendation. While there were a couple interesting and amusing parts, I did not really like a lot of this book. I have discovered that raunchy humour often does not work for me. I’m indifferent to hot dogs most of the time and the author didn’t always make me interested. A lot of the book was also depressing as it exposed American jingoism and capitalist greed. I think I still like Jamie Loftus but did not love this book. It did give me a big craving for hot dogs which I will have to fill sometime soon. I do not regret it reading this book but I’d hesitate to recommend it.

Setting: Most of the continental USA.

1.5x audiobook. Jan 24-28, 2024.

Emily Wilde’s Map of the Motherlands by Heather Fawcett

Narrated by: Ell Potter, Michael Dodds. I listened to this book and read it on hard cover at the same time. That was a first time I’ve ever done that for a book completely. I love this series. The first book Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries gave me such a lovely book hangover. I remember vividly where I read it in Australia on a hot day contrasting it nicely to the setting. I love the heroine who is intelligent, prickly, head strong but has enough self-reflection when she is wrong. Her love and analysis of stories makes her so relatable to bookworms. I love that her romantic interest respects and admires her for her intelligence and tenacity. He is flawed and otherworldly. I love how this book walks the line of being a fairy folk tale but also a novel with real character development and reflection. I could go on on and on. I’m in love with this series and happy to have bought both hardcovers. Can’t wait for the third and final instalment.

Setting: Alternate universe Cambridge, UK and Austria. High Fantasy faery land.

2-2.5x. January 28, 2024.

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Narrated by Eunice Wong. I listened to Dial M for Aunties which was narrated by a different narrator. I found the writing a bit over the top and was not eager to read Sutanto again. However, I thought the premise and the reviews sounded promising. I did like this book a bit better. I think the author is great with Asian American characters and relationships. I liked all the characters in this novel with a caveat. The story is told from many perspectives and the beginning feels a bit of a drag as each of them is wracked with guilt. All of them except Vera had self-esteem issues. I knew the twist and murderer early on. I liked Vera and the food descriptions. I am not sure if I want to continue. Wong’s narration is great though.

Setting: San Francisco, CA, USA.

1.5x. January 28-29, 2024.

If I was a Horse by Sophie Blackwell

Cute children’s picture book.

January 31, 2024.

Graphic Audio edition. Another honker in this series. I listened to about 75% of this on my long journey home. I finished ACFAS on my first flight and started this one. I did doze at couple hours here and there. It kept me company on 3 flights and I did appreciate it.

On the whole, I do think this is one of the better written in the series if not the best yet. Nesta and Elain are more interesting than Freyre at this point. She did nothing at all in this book except touch her belly. I missed her actually doing something. I did not miss Rhysand. At this point, I feel like his pedestal is too high.

This book was all Nesta and Cassian. It’s slow but the book did a decent job of Nesta’s character development including her self-hatred and depression. The story and plot dragged in parts. There were too many magical objects. They add about half a dozen more in this book. It’s repetitive at this point because these objects always call to the Acheron sisters. Also, I did not mind the romantic relationship but there was too much smut. I had to put those scenes on 2x+ speed.

The last two books have not been narrated by Feyre and the third person limited narration done by Colleen Delaney is great. She is a better narrator than the actor who plays Feyre. It added to the story for me.

The book does the female relationships well. I do wish it had explored the sisters’ relationships a bit more. They continue to be bad at communication.

I sorta hate how addictive this series is. Some aspects of it are really cringey and not well written, but I liked Nesta in this book. I read the bonus chapter on my ebook copy. I think I’ll like Elain’s book when that gets released too. SJM’s writing has gotten better.

Setting: High fantasy universe.

1.25x – 2x audiobook. January 19-21, 2024.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

Graphic Audio edition. I listened to 85% of this large audiobook on active transit: buses and planes. Oh boy. I still have the same issues. I think the writing can be too much and too cringey. Characters are sometimes written questionably or unrealistically. For a fantasy with mind readers, characters have a hard time with communication skills. To focus on the good parts I think the world building is nice. I like how many baths are included in this series not because I like baths personally but the author gives room to breathe in the world. The characters are mostly likeable. I end up liking Freyre by the end of each of these books even if I am indifferent or wary about her for most of the book. I continue to really like the Graphic Audio audiobooks. I hope I can start the Crescent series with it too. I will keep going on the wild SJM journey slowly. The fantasy is fun for the most part.

Setting: High Fantasy other world.

1.25x audiobook. November 28, 2023 – January 2, 2024.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

I started and listened to about one third of this on audiobook. I even read along with it in one of my favourite parks in Sydney for a little bit. I finished it on ebook because it was more convenient in the end. The audiobook is good because of Meryl Streep. The middle was a bit slow but the last few chapters were as good as usual from Patchett. The novel is sentimental almost maudlin but I like the slow yet consistent character development and story. Great relationships. I revisited a couple of the last chapters with Streep’s narration.

Setting: Michigan, USA.

Read on ebook on kindle. 1.5x audiobook. January 9-15, 2024.

A Court of Frost and Startlight by Sarah J. Maas

Graphic Audio edition. This was shorter and cozier. Not much happened but I liked it. I actually love the cozy world building moments in this series. I think I preferred the non Freyre and Rhys scenes a bit more. I do think Freyre’s story truly ends here in this novel but without getting into spoilers, I do think the couple is a bit stupid and annoying by the end of it. After reading so many books and chapters about Volaris, I almost want to go there.

Setting: High fantasy universe.

1.25-5x audiobook. January 6-19, 2024.

My overall reading goal for 2024 is 60 books and 18,000 pages up from 52 and 15,000 pages from last year. I will always try to keep my reading goal achievable. It puts less pressure on me and allows more flexibility for other things in my life.

Top reading challenges for 2024

  1. Read 60 Books
  2. Reading Glasses 2024 Challenge: A couple of activities are more difficult than last year but achievable.
  3. The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge 2024: I entered this one because it had books which I tend to already read or plan to read.
  4. Read more from my physical TBR: Read at least 25 books from my physical TBR shelves so I can free up space. In 2023, 23% of the books I read were from the TBR. Ideally I’d like to increase this to one third or at least one quarter by the end of 2024.

The rest of these are more guidelines and ongoing challenges:

  • Read 3 books from the Boxall 1001 list: Continuing this life long challenge.
  • Read more from previously started series: I should try to read more from series that I started and wanted to continue.
  • Track the settings: This was an idea from the Reading Glasses podcast. I’ll track it with my book reviews and hopefully a map.
  • Read 1 poetry book: I would be glad to read a couple of poetry books per year. It is hard to discover poetry that I love. There have been a lot of misses but I should keep trying.
  • Read 1 Shakespeare play: Lots of Shakespeare in my physical TBR so I should read at least one of them.
  • Read at least 1 French book: Succeeded this in 2023 and hope to do better with some Tintin in French too.

Ebooks, audiobooks, and E-reader upgrade

Starting in the last half of 2023, I began to whittle down my library check-out’s. I would usually have 15-20 items from the library at any time. This ballooned during the lockdowns to sometimes 40-50. Even 15 is a lot. I switched to audiobooks (especially audiobooks of those in my already owned TBR) and ebook hoarding. The library can be addictive so part of my goal here is to only have less than ten or five physical library books at any time.

I still have too many physical books so I will continue to read them or listen to them in audiobook or even ebook when travelling. I have a collecting and hoarding tendency for my hobbies and past-times. Moving to a digital collection and consumption is a wee bit better at least.

I will continue to use my library’s Libby and CloudLibrary collections. I have the opportunity of accessing another smaller library system’s digital content as well.

In the past, I would primarily use my e-book reader while I was travelling. I love my Kindle 3 Keyboard. It is now almost 14 years old. A lot of those years had light usage which is why the battery and condition of my e-reader is excellent for its age. I would even buy another model if I had the chance. I am planning to replace the battery.

I’ve been wanting a new e-reader for awhile and plan on getting a Kobo with the next upgrade. As much as I love my Kindle Keyboard, I sideload most of my ebooks so sticking with Amazon and Kindle is not necessary. Secondly, the Kindle Oasis model was the one I was most interested in but it has not been updated since 2019. I really like physical page turning and want a slightly bigger screen. It is looking unlikely that Kindle will make an update so I will go with the Canada based Kobo which also has Overdrive integration.

I will continue to blog about almost every book I read here.

As this was my best reading year yet, I had lots to choose from. This list does not include some rereads but I did include one in audiobooks. This was difficult especially the other fiction. All because it’s not here does not mean they weren’t the great. It’s been such a fantastic reading year.

Children and Middle Grade

  • The Tea Dragon trilogy by K. O’Neill
  • Garlic and the Witch series by Bree Paulson
  • The Only Child by Guojing
  • Marshmallow Clouds by Connie Wanet and Ted Kooser

Graphic novels

  • Ducks by Kate Beaton
  • Seance Tea Party by Reimena Yee
  • Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman
  • Monstress series by Marjorie Liu
  • The Night Eaters series by Marjorie Liu

Fantasy and Sci-Fi

  • Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
  • Heart of the sun warrior by Sue Lynn Tan
  • A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

Other Fiction and Literary Fiction

  • Yellowface by R. F. Kuang
  • The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman

Nonfiction

  • Say Goodnight to Insomnia by Gregg D. Jacobs
  • Chinatown Pretty by Valerie Liu and Andria Lo
  • All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell

Audiobooks

I consumed 18 audiobooks which is the most I’ve ever done. I hope this continues for the next few years especially for nonfiction.

  • Better Living Through Birding by Christian Cooper, narrated by the author
  • These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, narrated by the author
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl, narrated by Kate Winslet – technically a reread but I needed to highlighted the narration
  • Graphic Audio’s A Court of Mist and Fury, narrated by a full cast

2023 was my biggest reading year ever. I read 125 books out of the 52 book original goal. A lot of these were shorter books like graphic novels, children, middle grade, and audiobooks. I have been able to increase my reading in a few ways this year and continue to prioritize it as my main hobby. My mental health was not the best for most of 2023. I believe reading especially lighter things helped me.

This is a long post reflecting on books and my reading this past year.

Continue reading →

I’ve cut down on my TV watching significantly in favour of books and knitting, but this fall had a few favourites returning,

“Only Murders in the Building” Season 3 – I think this was my favourite season of the show yet. It was definitely better than S2 because of the themes and the casting. The show continues to be funny and have impeccable set design and wardrobe. I am really glad it’s getting another season.

“Loki” S2 – The first season was entertaining largely because of Loki and Mobius. I would say I was so-so until the last couple episodes. Loki, Mobius and Ke Huy Quan’s OB has really lightened things up this season. However, like a lot of MCU shows, there was weak character writing especially for the female and villain characters. The ending with Loki was really bittersweet and I did feel sad. It’s a testament to Hiddleston’s acting and journey as the character after 14 years.

“Rick and Morty” S7 – I like the new voice actors. Probably one of the best seasons of the show ever, but I got into this show later than most. I really like the show for its character work and ideas.

“Taskmaster” Series 16- I skipped out on Series 15. Series 14 was one of my favourites. I watched half this season and need to go back. I’ve discovered so many good comedians especially female ones on this show.

”Frasier 2023” – The original show is my favourite sitcom. This revival was okay. I miss the original cast but there are some gems in this one. It needs time to take find its footing but I will keep watching.

”Masterchef: The Professionals” UK – My favourite food completion is back. We watched most of it on the trip but I’ll need to finish it at home.

I have been waiting to read this novel for awhile now. Once I heard this bestselling novel of 2023 had dragons, I knew I had to read it. The hype for it and the sequel were high. At a local community event before I left for my trip, I put a silent bid on the hardcover of Iron Flame and won it while I was on my trip. With that in mind, I knew I would wait until I got home to read the sequel even though I got both ebooks for this trip. I also wanted to make sure I had at least a couple of days to read this anticipating from the hype and a friend that I needed time and energy for it.

Continue reading →

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman

This was a good historical action adventure romance. The author cited Georgette Heyer in the Acknowledgments which made me like her more. The characters were rootable and likeable. It was three cases rather than one and there was a good setup for the next novel. I liked the romance decently as well. The novel had more dark elements of regency life such a mentions of slavery and trafficking unlike a typical regency romance. It could have been slightly anachrosistic if not for the catharsis of the characters winning. It was good fun and I hope the book becomes more popular.

4.25/5 stars. Dec 16-18, 2023. Kindle.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

For many years, I thought or felt I had read this novella. Like most people, I grew up with adapations of it. My personal favourite is The Muppet Christmas Carol. I think I did listen to most of Patrick Stewart narrated audiobook version over a decade ago but I did not track it anywhere. In any case, this really is a perfect novella. Great character development. Well written with gripping elements. It set the tone for Christmas. I can see myself rereading this one in the future.

4.25/5 stars. Dec 24-27, 2023. Kindle. StandardEbooks version.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This was cute. While TJR’s writing and characters don’t always knock my socks off, I really appreciated how she weaved characters and plots in a slightly different way. Her endings have not been sickly sweet even if they are happy. While there wasn’t a love triangle per se, the two love interests in this book are believable and equally good. I really appreciated that.

3.75/5 stars. Dec 10-11, 2023. Kindle.

Dubliners by James Joyce

Like all short story collections, there were some stories better than the others. First off, Joyce was a really good writer. Joyce had a way of describing people and feelings very well. He was a wordsmith. This was more of a language book. I didn’t like most of the characters. A lot of them are feckless alcoholics or creeps. Some of the female characters were fine but they were sad due to the theme of stagnation that Joyce carried through most of the stories. I found it slow to read. I do think the last novella story ended on a good note and pushed my rating back up. I think I will read Ulysses one day, but not Finnegan’s Wake ever. I am not in a rush to read Joyce again soon.

3.5/5 stars. Dec 11-13, 2023. Kindle.

Shady Hollow by Juneau Clay

I needed to go back to something cozier and more whimsical after the Dubliners. This was a sweet low stakes cozy fantasy mystery novel where all the cast are woodland creatues. It was like a gentle balm and I look forward to reading more from the series.

3.75/5 stars. Dec 13-15, 2023. Kindle.

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