Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

@MR, Lillelara & TA - Exiled Buddy Read

The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett

Just a question, are we keeping the discussion thread  going on GR or are we continuing here on BL?

An invitation to the BL Expats group on GR

Reblogged from Moonlight Snowfall:

Back in 2016, it seemed prudent to set up a group on GR where we could all meet up if BL didn't survive. The group still exists, and there were a few requests to join while BL was down (which I have approved - sorry for the delay, but it took me a while to notice them) but now that we're back up, it seemed prudent to post the group address over here again.


I think that most of us have made our way over there as a place to get info and stay in contact, but for anyone who follows me who isn't already part of the group, if you are also on GR, the group link is BL Expats. It's a private group, but I think that the link will take you to the group so you can send a request to join.

Reading progress update: I've read 445 out of 741 pages.

The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair

Hooray - I am able to post again.


So, here are some consolidated updates on de Beauvoir's classic:


Page 245:

The chapter on Montherlant was fairly rage-inducing. Next up: an analysis of D.H. Lawrence's work, which I predict will also make me want to reach for the sick bucket. Let's see how Lawrence fares in de Beauvoir's estimation.


Page 255:

Yep, yep. De Beauvoir's analysis supports the conclusions I have drawn from reading Lawrence. They are not showing Lawrence in a favourable light.


Page 282:

"Stendhal never describes his heroines as a function of his heroes: he provides them with their own destinies. He undertook something rarer and that no other novelist, I think, has ever done: he projected himself into a female character. He does not examine Lamiel as Marivaux does Marianne, or Richardson does Clarissa Harlowe: he shares her destiny as he had shared that of Julien."

Need to add Stendhal to the TBR.


Page 445:

Right, I thought Book 1 of the book was fabulous.

Having just finished Part 1 of Book 2, I have issues with the theories, explanations, and research that is presented here.

For one, whether it is mentioned or not, the entire first Part is deeply Freudian. Adler is mentioned, but overall Freudian ideas prevail. This may have still been relevant in 1949, but now feels VERY dated.
Also, I really can't stand Freud.

Reading progress update: I've read 169 out of 741 pages.

The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair

Despite H.M. Parshley's introductory assurances that his abridgment of the original text in the 1953 translation is minor, the audiobook (based on the most recent and unabridged translation) makes it very clear that the original translation (1953 by Parshley) misses out on material that is very noteworthy and very much is part of de Beauvoir's argument. 


Right now, I am mightily peeved that Parshley cut quite a few parts from the chapters on women's history. While Parshley may have felt that he was merely "reducing the extent of the author's illustrative material", the removal of said illustrative material kinda feels like a silencing or an glancing over or outright omitting of the fact that certain people, works, or ideas even existed. 

I certainly would not have known them had de Beauvoir not listed them for illustration. 

So, I am rather glad I am having both the old and the new translation at hand for comparison.


But, yes, I'm peeved at Parshley right now.

The Winter Queen

The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin, Andrew Bromfield

Not bad, but just not for me. 


I'm not keen on pastiche and this was very ... unoriginal. It felt like a story cobbled together with bits and pieces of other books: Sherlock Holmes, Conrad's The Secret Agent, some Chekhov...and possibly some early James Bond.


The writing was consistently good and there was certainly lots of fun to be had and lots of atmosphere to be enjoyed, but I just couldn't get excited about the story or the characters.

Reading progress update: I've read 137 out of 249 pages.

The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin, Andrew Bromfield

I know, I wanted "light entertainment" to balance out de Beauvoir's magnum opus, but The Winter Queen may actually be too light for me right now. 


It's like all of the most ridiculous spy and mystery stories jumbled into one. I like it, but ... it's not really keeping me engaged because it seems almost too familiar a story. 


The story even features individuals who are instruments of terror and are referred to by numbers - and I keep wondering who Nos. 2, 4, and 27 are in this organisation:

Then suddenly Erast Fandorin’s heart was wrung with pity. These were no terrorists, these were all decent and respectable individuals! These were the victims of terror! Nihilists from various countries, each of them concealed behind a coded number, were reporting to central revolutionary HQ about the terrorist acts they had committed!



Still, it's a better book than many James Bond novels.

Reading progress update: I've read 24 out of 249 pages.

The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin, Andrew Bromfield

‘What it means is not for me to judge. But I have a good idea how things happened. Our well-heeled and pampered gilded youth decided to bid the world farewell. But before he died he wanted to give his nerves a bit of a thrill. I read somewhere that it’s called “American roulette”. It was invented in America, in the goldfields. You put a single shot in the cylinder, give it a twirl, and then – bang! If you’re lucky you break the bank, if not, then it’s goodbye and farewell.

Oh, this IS fun. 

It's a little bit like Sherlock (the BBC series, not Conan Doyle's original) but set in Moscow in 1876.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 249 pages.

The Winter Queen - Boris Akunin, Andrew Bromfield

I need something to balance the "heavy reading" I've got going on right now. I hope this is a fun story. If not, I'll turn to one of Martin Edwards' picks.

Reading progress update: I've read 35 out of 741 pages.

The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir, Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, Constance Borde Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men  - Caroline Criado-Pérez

I started de Beauvoir's magnum opus last October but haven't been able to make a dent into it. Not because it is boring (far from it) or difficult (surprisingly (to me), it's easy to follow), but because I got side-tracked with other books and ... games.


On my return to work after the holidays this morning, I ended up in a social chat with our HR Director who was very enthusiastic about Caroline Criado-Perez' book Invisible Women, which is a book that has been lurking on my TBR for a while also. So, I ended up downloading a sample on my kindle and reading the introduction over my lunch break. (I'll borrow the book from my colleague when she's finished.)

Criado-Perez makes quite a few references to The Second Sex in the first few pages of her book and this in turn gave me the motivation I needed to resolve to finishing The Second Sex

For additional help with this mammoth task - yes, I am intimidated by the size of the book - I've also sourced the audiobook. This should make it even more interesting as the audiobook is the newer but unabridged translation by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier whereas my paperback is the original 1949 translation by H.M. Parshley.


So, the plan is that I'll try and read a little bit of the book every night, even if it is just for 30 minutes. If I finish the book by the end of the month, brilliant. If it takes longer, that's ok, too. 

The 2020 Mount TBR Project

Hello! Happy New Reading!


After taking a break in 2019 from TBR busting, I am going to use 2020 for a new Mount TBR Project. It will take the same form as my previous Mt. TBR Projects but this year there are no physical stacks of books piled on the top of my living room shelves. If I have learned anything from the project in 2018, it is that being startled by a stack collapsing unexpectedly is a lot less stressful than having to empty the entire shelf to retrieve books that have fallen behind it. shelves: the shelves I put up at the start of last year are too tall to put stacks on top of them, BUT I have dedicated two shelves specifically to the Mount TBR Project.



I'm not one for setting reading challenges or specific objectives in connection with my reading - I really like flexibility and being able to just pick up whatever I feel like.  

However, I had Mt. TBR Projects in 2015, 2016, and 2018 and all were reasonably successful in curtailing the physical books on my shelves.

Last year, I gave it a miss in favour of flexibility, whim, and complete disregard for my poor, long-suffering shelves. It was fun. So much fun.

Of course, there was a drawback: I have accumulated a number of physical books over the last year that have just sort of gathered in stacks on top of my shelves again... and it is time to read them.



Rules - same as previously - are that I picked a stack of physical books off my shelves at home which I would try to read over the course of the year. If I pick another (yet unread) physical book off my shelves, I get to take one off the Mt. TBR shelves and put it on the regular shelf - as a substitute. In a change from previous years, new purchases (physical books only) will not be added to the Mt. TBR shelves - I will track these separately.

Grey Mask

Grey Mask   - Patricia Wentworth

Well, well. I had low expectations for this book and only really looked forward to it because it was planned buddy read with Lillelara

So, imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed this story despite its entirely bonkers plot and even despite its utterly, utterly stupid main character. Margot really was the epitome of an obnoxious airhead and I am still amazed that she actually survived the plot without being killed off. 

I certainly hoped for this on every single page. 


To be fair, imagining plot twists in which Margot met with an untimely end was part of the fun of reading the story. 


Luckily, there were some other characters that I actually liked reading about: Margaret was one of them. She had some depth. 

Archie was another. He had some spirit. Even tho his choice of love interest is beyond my ability to understand. Why, Archie? Why?


As for the plot itself? It was bonkers. There was a time I got completely lost, but I think at that time I had already given up on The Grey Mask featuring any credible or logical train of thought. And sometimes this is just the kind of book one needs. 

Reading progress update: I've read 81%.

Grey Mask   - Patricia Wentworth

‘I’m all alone in the house, you see. And I shouldn’t be much use if it came to a rough-and-tumble with a burglar – what? Now there was Hugo Byrne – you remember Hugo – no, he was before your time – his mother was Edith Peace, and his sister married one of the Dunlop Murrays – no relation of yours of course. Let me see, what was I going to tell you? Oh yes – burglars. Well, poor old Hugo got up in the middle of the night and thought he heard a burglar and – let me see, did I tell you? – he’d got his wife’s uncle down from Scotland staying with them – he married Josephine Campbell, you know. No, no, not Josephine – she was the dark one – Elizabeth Campbell. Yes, I’m sure it was Elizabeth, because she had red hair, and we used to call her Red Liz – behind her back, you know, behind her back. And – where was I? Oh yes – poor old Hugo and the burglar. Of course it turned out to be old Robert Campbell. And he never left them a penny. Rather too bad – what?

I am so confused. I seriously have lost my overview of who is who at the moment.

Reading progress update: I've read 62%.

Grey Mask   - Patricia Wentworth

Freddy was in his element at once.    

‘Most unfortunate, constable – the young lady might have been killed. We were all going across together, my daughter and this young lady and I, and she slipped – Didn’t you, my dear? Dear me, we ought to be very thankful she isn’t hurt. She slipped and fell right in front of the bus. Now, my dear, you’re quite safe. No – don’t cry. You’re not hurt, are you?’

Oh, ye gawds. So, so close...but dammit.


Despite my earlier misgivings, I am actually really enjoying this story. It is bonkers and I dislike many of the characters of the first half of the book (tho, Freddy, Archie, and Margaret are interesting) and am still wishing for Margot to be killed off soon, but I am also hooked by how bonkers this is and am really looking forward to reading how this is all supposed to fit together.

Reading progress update: I've read 51%.

Grey Mask   - Patricia Wentworth

Of course Sheikhs glare nearly the whole time. I think Charles is awfully like a Sheikh really. He would look frightfully handsome in that sort of long night-gown thing they wear and the thrilling thing over their heads that looks like a sheet tied round and round with a twisty, knotty kind of rope. It would suit Charles like anything – only of course Archie is taller. But he wouldn’t make nearly such a good Sheikh, because he’s got rather a funny sort of face and he laughs a lot – and of course Sheikhs don’t.


I really, really can't stand Margot. 


Tho, if this is anything like the So Blue Marble, she WILL be the "mastermind". 


(show spoiler)


Reading progress update: I've read 43%.

Grey Mask   - Patricia Wentworth

Miss Greta Wilson made no attempt to wipe the tea off her jumper. She fixed her pale blue eyes on Archie with the unwinking stare of a kitten and asked,    

‘Did you know her?’    

Archie shook his head.    

‘Perhaps she’s frightfully ugly,’ pursued Greta.    

‘She’s probably hideous,’ said Archie. ‘If she weren’t, there’d have been about a million photos of her in all the papers.’    

Greta’s colour rose.    

‘Would you marry a girl who was perfectly hideous, just because she had heaps of money?’

‘Ah!’ said Archie. ‘If it were to keep my Aunt Elizabeth’s parrot out of the workhouse, I might. Some day I’ll tell you all about it – “A Hero’s Sublime Sacrifice. A Parrot’s Trust Rewarded. Devoted Nephew Saves Indigent Feathered Friend. Matchless Masterpiece In Seventeen Episodes Featurin’ Archibald Millar.”

Oh. Ok. I like Archie. He is the first character in this book that I like (...Miss Silver is ok, too, but hasn't had any big scenes, yet).

Reading progress update: I've read 17%.

Grey Mask   - Patricia Wentworth

‘You didn’t bound from your place of concealment!’ Archie’s tone was incredulous.    

‘No, I didn’t.’    

‘You let them get away and just trickled round to the police station?’    

‘Well – no,’ said Charles, ‘I didn’t go to the police station.’    

‘Why didn’t you?’    

‘Because I didn’t want to.’ He paused. ‘As a matter of fact I used to know one of the crowd pretty well, and I thought I’d keep the police out of it if I could.’

I have flashbacks to The Z Murders where the "hero" also decides to not go to the police. He was an idiot and so is Charles.


As for Egbert, .... sheesh ... He is asking for a bad end.


On a positive note, I am now finally home (train issues...) and have ready access to booze. 



Currently reading

Dead Corse by Mary Kelly
Progress: 45/234pages
Rumi: Selected Poems (Penguin Classics) by Coleman Banks, John Moyne, Rumi
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, Constance Borde
Progress: 87%
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Pérez
Der Weltverbesserer: Sämtliche Erzählungen 1910-18 by Volker Michels, Hermann Hesse
Progress: 40/359pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 481/1344pages
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair
Progress: 689/741pages