Reading progress update: I’ve read 96 out of 384 pages.

Schilf: Roman - Juli Zeh

 

Sebastian = Faust
 

Oskar = Mephisto, der Faust zugleich verführt und bei der Suche nach der absoluten Wahrheit überflügeln will — er braucht jemand, den er besiegen kann.

 

Dass das Krankenhaus hinter der Entführung von Liam stecken soll, glaube ich keine Sekunde.  Das geht auf das Konto des Obermanipulators Oskar.  Geh zur Polizei, Sebastian.

 

Die Physik ist window dressing.  In Wirklichkeit geht es um ein schnödes Machtspiel.

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1633287/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-96-out-of-384-pages

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Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your toaster (and your afternoon cup of tea) but so far never even thought to ask.

Review:

Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski

My high school physics teacher was a very nice gentleman who clearly loved his subject — but who equally clearly lived in a very different world from that of us rowdy teenagers, and to whom it never even seemed to occur that his way of thinking might just be a tad too alien and abstract for most of us (or if it did occur to him, he didn’t have the slightest clue how to bridge the gap).  It certainly also didn’t help that he was teaching in what was to him a foreign language — and that he had no clue how to police cheating: whatever method he came up with, we were always at least a step or two ahead of him.  (Which, back in the day, was virtually my only saving grace when it came to tests, though in the long run it of course didn’t help at all.)  In short, he’d probably have made a stellar physics professor at university — as a school teacher, however, he was entirely miscast.

 

Now, far be it from me to blame my own deficiencies on the deficiencies of my high school education: Though I’ve always loved biology (and been fascinated by the scientific / theoretical aspects of medicine), it’s unlikely I would ever have chosen science as a career.  However, with the exception of optics, I’ve always struggled more to get a grip on physical concepts than on biological or chemical ones.  Even maths presented decidedly less of a challenge: I didn’t particularly care for it, but it was never a subject apt to seriously endanger my grade point average.  That dubious honour always went to physics alone.  As a result, for the longest time and until I somewhat grudgingly decided to remedy that fact much later in life, my understanding of physics — other than optics — was essentially a “reflected” understanding, to the extent that the laws of physics were relevant to other subjects, such as biology and chemistry (e.g., in the composition and behaviour of cells and atoms).

 

Part of this, undoubtedly, was due to the fact that other areas (history, languages, music and literature) were far more of a focus of my early upbringing: Helen Czerski’s afterword to Storm in a Teacup, where she recounts how both her family background and growing up in industrial Manchester helped shape and foster her interest in science and technology, spoke to me just because I can relate to precisely the opposite; notwithstanding the fact that both my grandmother and her twin sister studied medicine (they were among the earliest women to enroll in that field in Germany) and several of my aunts — cousins of my mother — are doctors as well.

 

But I also would wish my high school teacher had taken a similar approach as Czerski in Storm in a Teacup, because the first of several things she achieves (and the importance of which my teacher missed entirely) is to make her readers understand why physics matters to each of us and what it has to do with our daily lives, above and beyond the puny truisms that we’ve all heard of.  (“Yeah, I know that there’s such a thing as gravity, but what does it really mean and why does it matter to me except for — literally — keeping my feet on the ground and making things fall down if they’re not securely resting on something else?”)  That doesn’t mean, of course, that from suddenly gaining a basic understanding how your toaster works — or why popcorn pops, why buttered toast almost always lands on the floor with the buttered side down, why ketchup initially stays in the bottle (and how to get it out of there without spilling half the contents all over your plate, the table, and your clothes), or from devining the secrets behind the innumerable mysteries associated with a cup of tea (with or without milk in it) — it’s only a small step towards a full understanding of astrophysics, nuclear physics, or even just “ordinary” university level physics.  But as Czerski doesn’t tire to point out, the laws of physics apply to our daily life in the same way as they apply to the universe at large; and I’m pretty sure if my teacher way back when had understood how to get us to make a connection with our everyday world, and understand how physics matters to each of us in a million different ways every single day of our lives, many of us would have found it fascinating — instead of writing it off as unbearably dull, unattainably abstract, and / or totally irrelevant to our lives and even our potential career paths.  As Czerski puts it:

“There is sometimes a bit of snobbery about the science found in kitchens and gardens and city streets.  It’s seen as something to occupy children with, a trivial distraction which is important for the young, but of no real use to adults.  An adult might buy a book about how the universe works, and that’s seen as being a proper adult topic.  But that attitude misses something very important: the same physics applies everywhere.  At toaster can teach you about some of the most fundamental laws of physics, and the benefit of a toaster is that you’ve probably got one, and you can see it working for yourself.  Physics is awesome precisely because the same patterns are universal: they exist both in the ktichen and in the furthest reaches of the universe.  The advantage of looking at the toaster first is that even if you never get to worry about the temperature of the universe, you still know why your toast is hot.  But once you’re familiar with the pattern, you will recognize it in many other places, and some of those other places will be the most impressive achievements of human society.  Learning the science of the everyday is a direct route to the background knowledge about the world that every citizen needs in order to participate fully in society.”

The laws controlling the spin of the Hubble Telescope’s gyroscopes are the same that make a raw egg spin.  The laws that make popcorn explode and that help create focaccia bread are the same laws that control the Santa Ana winds in California, move a steam engine, propel rockets, and which any sea-bound mammal, such as a whale, needs to cope with when hunting hundreds of metres below the surface of the ocean.  Bubble baths form according the the same laws that are at play in the formation of a layer of cream on top of milk (and that are now used to get rid of that layer of cream in the process of homogenization), that make sponges and towels absorbent, that are used by every tree, from those in your back garden (if you have one) to the giant redwood in order to pull water up to its very top, and which modern medicine uses in order to be able to perform tests on the basis of a single drop of blood where a whole vial used to be necessary before.  The flow (or not) of ketchup out of a bottle and the sloshing of tea in a mug is dictated by the same laws that are at play in a lock gate and at the Hoover Dam … etc., etc.

 

Czerski assumes virtually no understanding of the laws of physics (or anything related, such as mathematics) on the part of her readers going into each individual topic, and while that occasionally results in some talking down to the reader (“One nanometre really is tiny — there are a million of them in one millimetre” … thank you, Ma’am, I knew that much at least already!), most of the time she meets her readers at eye level — and I really have to hand it to her; I’d never have thought there could be so much suspense associated with the details of heating popcorn, baking focaccia bread, or making a cup of tea.  And I just love her sense of humour:

“In 1964, Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias detected waves from the sky at microwave wavelengths that shouldn’t have been there.  They spent a long time trying to work out which bit of the sky on their telescope was messing up the mesurement, sure that something was generating extra microwave light.  They also cleared out some nesting pigeons from the telescope, along with their droppings (euphemistically described as ‘white dielectric material’ in the paper they wrote).  The unwanted background light persisted.  It eventually turned out to be the signature of the Big Bang, some of the most ancient light in the universe.  There is something special about an experiment that has to be very careful to distinguish between the after-effects of pigeon poo and the after-effects of the formation of the universe.”

There possibly won’t be much in here that is news to a trained physicist, or an enthusiast of the subject matter, but I’ll gladly take Elentarri‘s word that even a scientifically trained reader may find this book enjoyable.  For many of the rest of us (even those who were able benefit from a somewhat more enlightened physics instruction in school than me), this is in many respects eye-opening in the best of all ways, in addition to being an engaging and well-written read.

 

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1633053/everything-you-ve-ever-wanted-to-know-about-your-toaster-and-your-afternoon-cup-of-tea-but-so-far-never-even-thought-to-ask

Card Reveal: Women Writers Bingo

Reblogged from: Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books


 

Awogfli announced in this post, a few days ago, a “female authors challenge”, i.e., the intention to include more female writers in her literary intake as from 2018 on.  Others spontaneously signed on, and I promised to create a bingo card for those who want to track their reading progress that way.  So (drumroll) … here it is!

 

The authors featured in the card, from top left to bottom right:

 

W   Mary Wollstonecraft
K    Margery Kempe
R    J.K. Rowling
N    Anaïs Nin
Q    Anna Quindlen
G    Ursula Le Guin
O    Edna O‘Brien
E    George Eliot
B    The Brontë Sisters
V    Barbara Vine / Ruth Rendell
H    Hildegard of Bingen
P    Christine de Pizan
XY  Banana Yoshimoto
M   Toni Morrison
Z    Julie Zeh
IJ   Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz
D   Emily Dickinson
L   Jhumpa Lahiri
T    Amy Tan
U   Sigrid Undset
C   Agatha Christie
A   Jane Austen
S   Sappho

 

I’ve tried to mix early women author pioneers with contemporary authors, Western / white authors with authors of other ethnicities, and authors of literary fiction with authors of other genres (mysteries, fantasy, romance), nonfiction and poetry.  The result is still a bit more Western-centric than I’d have liked, but it’s the best compromise I’ve been able to come up with.

 

The idea, in any event, is not merely to read the writers whose images I’ve used to create the card — it’s to read more women writers, period.  Whomever you want; regardless of time period, genre, nationality, ethnicity … just — women writers, of all origins, genres, and styles.

 

Now I’ll follow Awogfli’s example and put together my tentative reading list …

 

If anybody else is interested in joining, please do!  The more, the merrier.

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1632995/card-reveal-women-writers-bingo

Women Writers Bingo / Project: Tracking Post

 

Read:

A – Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor’s Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke (all new)

B –

C – Agatha Christie: The Moving Finger (revisited on audio)

D –

E –

F –

G –

H –

I –

J –

K –

L –

M – Ngaio Marsh: Death in a White Tie (revisited on audio)

N –

O –

P –

Q –

R –

S –

T –

U –

V –

W – Ethel Lina White: The Lady Vanishes (aka The Spinning Wheel) and The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch) (new)

X –

Y –

Z –

 

On the card, I am only tracking new reads, not rereads.

 

Read, to date in 2018:

Female authors: 16

– new: 14

– rereads: 2

 

Male authors: 2

– new: 2

– rereads:

 

F & M mixed teams / anthologies:

– new:

– rereads:

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1632608/women-writers-bingo-project-tracking-post

16 Festive Tasks – The Prize (Part 2)

… and following (almost) straight on the heels of MbD’s post, here is part 2 of your prize and our donation:

 

So, not only did you all earn enough points to furnish a mobile library in Africa with almost 30 books, the points you earned also make it possible to teach a child in Africa or Asia for a whole year.  Yey for all of you — as MbD said, you guys rock!

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1632367/16-festive-tasks-the-prize-part-2

Well, I can see the appeal to movie directors …

Review:

The Lady Vanishes & the Spiral Staircase (Wordsworth Classics) - Ethel Lina White, Keith Carabine

… but in written form, this isn’t really my cup of tea.  Which isn’t necessarily the fault of White’s writing is such — she has a fine eye (and ear) for characterization and language — but rather, of her chosen topic.  I’ve never been much of a fan of “women in peril” stories; they tend to be replete with fevered agitation and hyperbole, and however understandable the protagonists’ fear and excitement may be in a given situation, the situation as such is almost invariably so unrealistic as to be the literary equivalent of “B movie” material.

 

That being said, Hitchcock definitely milked The Lady Vanishes (which was originally published as The Wheel Spins) for all it was worth and then some — in fact, this is one of the rare examples where I decidedly prefer the movie over the book: not only because Hitch gave the story a spin that isn’t present in the literary original at all (even if that doesn’t make the story one iota more realistic — it’s just plainly more fun), but chiefly, because Michael Redgrave’s version of Iris’s (the heroine’s) knight in shining armour is decidedly more likeable than the character from the book, who — even though he’s meant to be likeable — to me just comes across as one hugely condescending a$$hole, hardly any better than the professor in whose company he travels.  Similarly, Iris herself is more likeable as portrayed by Margaret Lockwood in the movie: whereas there, I am genuinely sympathetic to her strange plight, the book mostly elicited my rage at her fellow passengers’ reactions — however not on Iris’s behalf specifically but on behalf of womanhood generally, against a society that automatically disbelieved and put down as hallucinations and figments of an overactive imagination any woman’s assertions that weren’t supported — or that were even directly contradicted — by other witnesses, especially men and / or figures of authority.  (In fact, if I hadn’t read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, biographical background information included, I’d have dismissed the whole premise of The Lady Vanishes as wildly improbable.  Sadly, at the time of its writing, it wasn’t.)

 

The Spiral Staircase (originally published as Some Must Watch) combines a remote country house setting on the Welsh border with a serial killer story; and if the isolation of the house and the prowling maniac weren’t enough in and of themselves, the whole action takes place over the course of somewhat less than 12 hours, mostly after nightfall.  I haven’t seen any of the several movie adaptations of this story, but I can see how a skilled director would be able to ratchet up the tension quite skillfully here, what with the dwindling down of effective defenses against the maniac and a cast of fairly outlandish (and unlikeable) characters inside the house — if you buy into the premonition that this house is where the serial killer is headed next, and that he is after the book’s heroine, to begin with.

 

I liked The Spiral Staircase a bit better than The Lady Vanishes — 3 1/2 vs. 2 1/2 stars, respectively, which averages out to 3 stars for both together.

 

The Spiral Staircase (under its original title Some Must Watch) is mentioned as an example of a country house mystery in Martin Edwards’s The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, so I’ll be counting that towards the corresponding square of my Detection Club bingo card, and both books, in addition, also towards the Women Writers Bingo.

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1632345/well-i-can-see-the-appeal-to-movie-directors

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: THANK YOU — and Final Tally

 

Sooo … with a staggering two-week delay, your hosts are finally getting around to the game’s closing post. (Yeah, we know. Let’s just say the new year started rather busy for both of us …)

Anyway, MbD and I wanted to thank all of you so much for joining the game and participating so actively! It’s been great fun watching the truly amazing things that everybody came up with to complete to the various tasks and book themes that we’d cobbled together into a semi-coherent whole — “imaginative” is putting it mildly; “6 degrees of separation” has got nothing on this crowd! (Not to mention the effect of this game on our respective TBRs … and the “oooohhs” and “aaawwws” induced by all the adorable pet photos floating down our dashboards.)

A special thank you, too, to everybody for reporting in and tallying up posts and for using the “16 festive tasks” tag; particular those of you who put together “final count” posts — all of this was a great help in keeping track of the running score and compiling the final count!

Speaking of which, without further ado:

The final count of points comes to a total of 528
— which translates into a donation of USD 55.00 from MbD and myself to each of the two charities we picked,
Book Aid International and
Room to Read.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some fun details on the outcome of the game:
Number of active participants: 27
(“Active” = completed at least one book or other task for the game)
Average number of points reached: 19.56
Number of card blackouts: 7
(“Blackout” = completed at least one book or other task per square)

Single biggest point-earning square: No. 2 (Guy Fawkes Night & Bon Om Touk) — 45 points total
Runners-up: Squares Nos.1 (All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos & Calan Gaeaf) and 3 (St. Martin’s Day & Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day) — 43 points total each
Least point-earning squares: Nos. 11 (Soyal & Dōngzhì Festival) and 14 (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti & Quaid-e-Azam’s Day) — 17 points total each

On a total of 11 squares (Nos. 1 – 4, 7 – 10, 12, 13 and 15), one or more participants completed all four tasks (book tasks and other tasks). Of these, the squares with the highest number of participants completing all four tasks (3 participants in each case) were:
No. 2 (Guy Fawkes Night & Bon Om Touk)
No. 3 (St. Martin’s Day & Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day) and
No. 15 (Newtonmas & St. Stephen’s Day / Boxing Day)

Square for which the highest number of participants read at least 1 book: No. 1 (All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos & Calan Gaeaf) — 17 participants
Square for which the highest number of participants read a 2nd book: No. 3 (St. Martin’s Day & Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day) — 7 participants
Square for which the highest number of participants completed at least 1 non-book task: No. 4 (Penance Day & Thanksgiving) — 20 participants
b]Square for which the highest number of participants completed a 2nd non-book task:[/b] No. 2 (Guy Fawkes Night & Bon Om Touk) — 8 participants

Bonus points scored via bonus books / tasks referring to individual squares: 17 total
Most bonus points scored via square-specific books / tasks for: No. 5 (Advent) — 6 bonus points total
Bonus points scored via Surprise, Surprise Jokers: 15 total
Points scored via Holiday and Light Jokers: 8 total

Congratulations, everybody, and thank you all so much again!

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1632316/16-tasks-of-the-festive-season-thank-you-and-final-tally

Reading progress update: I’ve read 118 out of 400 pages.

Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski

 

This is compelling reading — I’m tempted to just race through the whole book in (almost) one go, but I’ve decided to take it slowly, one chapter at a time approximately every other day.  I’m not sure that will necessarily mean I’ll ultimately remember more, but so far it’s been adding to my enjoyment.

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1630791/reading-progress-update-i-ve-read-118-out-of-400-pages

Mr. Campion of 17A Bottle Street, Piccadilly, London

Review:

The Tiger in the Smoke - Margery Allingham, David  Thorpe The Fashion in Shrouds - Margery Allingham, Francis Matthews Flowers for the Judge - Margery Allingham Sweet Danger - Margery Allingham Mystery Mile - Margery Allingham Dancers in Mourning (Albert Campion Mystery #8) - Margery Allingham Police at the Funeral - Margery Allingham Death of a Ghost - Margery Allingham The Case of the Late Pig - Margery Allingham Look to the Lady - Margery Allingham

I started the new year with a minor Allingham binge and, having now read a fair number of her Campion mysteries (12, i.e. 2/3 of the 18 novels that she herself completed), I think I can safely say that while I won’t ever like this series as much as I do those of Christie, Sayers, and Marsh, when Allingham is good, she is really good and can easily measure up to the other Golden Age “Queens of Crime.”

 

Campion starts out as a fairly thinly-drawn cipher in The Crime at Black Dudley, but that is due to the fact that Allingham wasn’t initially intending to make him her main detective: he was her publisher’s preference over the character that Allingham herself had had in mind as the lead.  So, in the following novels, she willy-nilly had to put some more flesh onto his hitherto meager bones, and pronto.  Unfortunately, she didn’t do likewise for the plots (nor for her books’ other characters), which in books 2 and 3 (Mystery Mile and Look to the Lady) remain variations on the same theme — a treasure hunt with murder interlude, complete with an international crime syndicate led by a master criminal, various abduction schemes, and supporting characters so unrealistic and twodimensionally cardboard they’d go up in flames if you only held a lighter vaguely in their direction. 

 

That said, in book 2 (Mystery Mile) already Allingham did come up with one of the greatest sidekicks ever in the history of mystery writing — Campion’s “gentleman’s gentleman” Maggersfontein Lugg, who (being an ex-burglar) is anything but gentlemanlike — and even by the time she wrote this book, she had already made great strides towards finding her style, and she’d definitely also learned a thing or two about tightening up a meandering plot.

 

The first one of her books that I really enjoyed (or had, on an earlier occasion, even though I didn’t revisit it for this particular exercise) is book 4, Police at the Funeral: There still is a bit too much of a “woman in distress” element for my liking at the very beginning of this book, but essentially it’s a classic country house mystery with a clever plot and a cast of unusual characters that are definitely showing signs of being more rounded than their confrères of the earlier novels — the whole thing could easily give Agatha Christie a run for her money (even though the solution won’t surprise anyone who knows their Conan Doyle and Christie tolerably well).

 

With book 5, Sweet Danger, we’re back, alas, to the “treasure hunt with murder interlude and crime syndicate led by a master criminal” plot phenomenon, this time even with one of the Golden Age’s most overused tropes thrown in (a tiny fictitious principality in the Balkans as the origin of the unsavory doings on British soil), all of which by this point had me thorougly gritting my teeth.  What elevates this book (somewhat) above its earlier predecessors, however, are its characters; first and foremost, then-17-year-old Lady Amanda Fitton, who even at that age is completely Campion’s equal and manages to bowl him over completely in no time at all.  (She’d return in several subsequent novels and eventually end up as his wife; not without first having taken up a careers as a mechanic engineer.)

 

Book 6, Death of a Ghost, is based on an ingenious idea, set in the arts world, featuring a range of fairly over the top (although not necessarily always likeable) characters and, though Campion tumbles to “whodunnit” fairly early on, the “howdunit” and “whydunit” are far less clear.  One of my favorite installments from the bunch that I’ve read so far (albeit speaking from memory — I haven’t revisited this one recently, either … I probably should).

 

Book 7, Flowers for the Judge, begins like a classic Golden Age locked room mystery set in the world of publishing: halfway into the story it becomes clear we’re on a sort of treasure hunt yet again (or rather, on the hunt for a manuscript that may or may not exist and provide a vital clue to the murder), but it’s clear here that the manuscript is merely a tool and Allingham’s chief interest is in the characters — one in particular –, so I’m willing to forgive Allingham for (semi-)falling back on her favorite ploy here.  (Also, I really like the ending, which provides a twist that rather made me smile, and which for a Golden Age mystery is anything but P.C.)

 

Book 8, The Case of the Late Pig, is an oddity in that it’s told from Campion’s point of view — what with its distinctly outlandish plotline and the exchanges between Campion and Lugg it reads like Allingham’s take on Jeeves and Wooster (though it’s less clear who is supposed to be who), with another locked room puzzle thrown in for good measure and, like in Death of a Ghost, some monkey business associated with a (not-so) dear departed.  I rather liked its twists when I first read it; I’ve only ever revisited it on screen since, though, where the different narrative point of view isn’t as apparent as in print.  Probably I should reread it at some point to see whether the first person narrative voice bothers me more now that I’ve read more books of the series overall.

 

Book 9, Dancers in Mourning, is Allingham’s visit to classic Ngaio Marsh territory — the world of the London stage –, combined once more with a country house setting.  At this point Allingham is very assured in creating interesting characters and a plot that holds together (also, this book is firmly within established Golden Age traditions), all of which makes for a rather enjoyable read. — Side note: This is also the last book in which Campion is shown as unlucky in love with one of the story’s female characters; in this particular instance, a married woman, which makes for quite a bit more depth than his previous forays into the territory of romance, mostly with the sisters and daughters of his friends and / or clients.

 

Book 10, The Fashion in Shrouds, sees Campion reunited — of sorts — with Amanda Fitton, who is now working as an engineer: what starts as a (purported) ploy of Amanda’s designed to disentagnle her employer from the married star actress he has fallen in love with ends up with Campion and Amanda taking the first steps towards a bona fide union.  Topically, this is Allingham’s take on career women; besides Amanda and the aforementioned vampish actress, the third woman on whom the story focuses is is Campion’s sister Valerie, co-owner and chief designer of a fashion house.  In approach and execution, this novel is nowhere near as accomplished as Dorothy L. Sayers’s Harriet Vane novels (particularly Gaudy Night, which was published three years before The Fashion in Shrouds) — and the only truly independent and self-assured female character is Amanda, as well as Campion and Valerie’s “Tante Marthe”, the co-owner of the fashion house — but I suppose given its publication date, it’s worth mentioning that Allingham is placing career women center stage in a (mostly) favorable light at all.

 

Book 11, Traitor’s Purse, to me is a hot mess; a fallback of the worst kind into Allingham’s early “treasure hunt with assorted villainy” plotlines, replete with incomprehensible decisions on Campion’s part that not even a head injury can satisfactorily explain away (in fact, in light of that head injury they’re even more inexplicable), cipher characters, and a thoroughly implausible plot.  Seems Allingham, like Christie, got caught up in the “5th column” / “enemy at home” noise echoing through Britain (like through most, if not all European countries) in WWII, when this book was published; and again like Christie, she just simply didn’t know enough about the world of espionage to pull it off convincingly.

 

Books 12 and 13 (Coroner’s Pidgin and More Work for the Undertaker) are, as yet, on my TBR — I don’t know when I’ll get around to them, but after this recent little binge, I doubt it will be anytime soon.

 

Which finally brings us to Book 14, The Tiger in the Smoke; in terms of characterization and atmosphere undoubtedly one of Allingham’s strongest — at least of the first 14 Campion novels.  Yet again we find about halfway through the book that we are on a treasure hunt, but for once even the villains — and we know who they are almost from the get-go — are fully rounded characters with an inner life and both a past and a present (albeit not much of a future if it’s down to Campion and the police).  Campion’s Scotland Yard sidekick of the earlier books, Stanislaus Oates, has climbed the career ladder all the way to the top, so the day to day police work is now being done by a very sympathetically drawn and, again, fully rounded new character, D.C.I. Charles Luke (side note: like Amanda’s path from teenager to career woman to (now) Campion’s wife and equal opportunity “lieutenant”, another instance showing that unlike Christie, Allingham allowed her characters to age in real time).  And towards the end of the book, just before the final resolution, we even get a finely-drawn downright Dostoevskyan exchange between a priest and the worst of the bad guys that a younger Allingham might have given her eye teeth to write, but would not have been able to pull off anywhere near as accomplished. What’s not to like?!

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1630607/mr-campion-of-17a-bottle-street-piccadilly-london

2017 in Review — and Consequences for 2018

 

2017 Statistics

Total number of books read in 2017: 287

Number of (as-yet unread) books added to “owned books” TBR in 2017: 250

 

So, looks like overall 2017 was a pretty good reading year for me — and certainly, even without having participated in BooklikesOpoly, the two games during the last four months of the year helped a lot.  The above total numbers don’t tell the full story, however (in fact, in some respects they’re more than a little deceptive).

 

In 2017, especially in the first couple of months, I had to do a lot of driving — as well as having to cope with a lot of stress.  To compensate and for on-the-road entertainment, I took to revisiting my favorite classics and my favorite mysteries on audio; and the amount of my comfort reading (or rather: listening) clearly shows in my yearly reading stats — not only in the number of new books read vs. rereads, but even more so in the number of audiobooks vs. print books read: 2017 was unquestionably the year when I discovered the  audiobook:

(Note: 2 books out of the total of 287 were Christmas classics I revisit every year, and where I chose the DVD version in 2017.)

 

Similarly, while my reading year was a pretty good one if you only take into account the new books I read (average: 3.95 stars), it improves even more if you factor in all the favourite-book rereads:

 

And of course, my comfort reading also impacts — big time — the genre breakdown of my 2017 reading:

(Note: “Nonfiction”, for purposes of this exercise, comprises biographies, memoirs, historical nonfiction, science and popular science, reference books, and assorted general nonfiction. — The category “Historical Fiction” includes a number of historical mysteries, which are included only once in the above chart for purposes of consistency in total number of books read, but which are included in the genre-specific analysis further below under both “Mysteries” and “Historical Fiction”, and which I’ve also analyzed separately.)

 

However, the area where my inordinate amount of comfort reading most significantly shows up is in the author gender breakdown.  It looks pretty evenly spread, with a slight pro-female bias, if you just look at the total figures:

(“m & f” are anthologies featuring contributions from both male and female authors or male-female author teams.)

 

But the vast majority of my comfort reads (or rather: audio revisits) were books written by female authors, and if you eliminate those, there’s a clear male author bias, except solely in the subgenre of historical mysteries.  In other words, almost all across the board, roughly 2 out of 3 new books I read were by male authors. (And it’s even more embarrassingly one-sided with regard to the six fantasy and five literary fiction titles I managed to squeeze in: they were all written by men.)  As all of this very much will have to change in 2018, I suppose the Women Authors Challenge / Bingo is coming just in time for me!


 

By Format:

(All but 2 of the print books were new reads, so the stats are almost exactly identical for all print books and new print books read.)

 

By Major Genres Read:

 (All nonfiction books I read in 2017 were new reads.)

 

 

 

(Note: For purposes of these last charts, the books qualifying as “historical mysteries” were included in both the charts for “historical fiction” and for “mysteries”, respectively.)

 

So, even in the mysteries and historical fiction tallies, despite the clear pro-women author bias in historical mysteries that remains even after eliminating the rereads, both “mysteries” and “historical fiction” flip from a pro-female to a pro-male author bias once the rereads are taken out of the consideration. 

 

 

2018 Outlook

In addition to the Women Authors Challenge / Bingo, which is hopefully going to help me put books written by women on a bit more of an equal footing with books written by men in the year just begun, I’m planning to

 

* continue whittling away at that impossible amount of books I added to my owned books TBR in 2017 alone (not to mention those already lingering on it from previous years),

* continue reading science and popular science with the Flat Book Society (the current read, Helen Czerski’s Storm in a Teacup, is of course an excellent way of killing two birds with one stone — a popular science book written by a woman),

* continue filling my Detection Club Bingo card and continue my exploration of Golden Age detective fiction, (which will hopefully also go some way towards both reducing my phyiscal TBR and augmenting the number of books written by women that I’m reading this year)

* and to the extent time allows, participate in the 2018 Booklikes games!

 

If in addition to / as part of the above I also manage to balance out my genre intake a little more and include more literary fiction and fantasy, I’ll color myself more than happy by the end of the year!

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1629075/2017-in-review-and-consequences-for-2018