Tag Archives: cozy mystery

Living My Best Life: The Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Wrap-Up

Well, that was a fantastic day, readers!

It’s the first day after the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and I am still feeling the afterglow.  I mean, I am a solid reader, with a capital R.  I tend to read at a minimum 2-3 books a week.  But even I was delighted and overwhelmed in the best ways possible about how fun it was to push everything aside to concentrate on the goal of reading as much as I could in 24 hours.

Here are my results:

  • Five books completed
  • Three physical books (one was a galley/ARC, and one was a library book), and two ebooks
  • A mix of genres:
    • One graphic novel
    • One African fiction
    • One thriller
    • One noir translated from Japanese
    • One gay YA romance
  • 943 pages finished
  • 17 hours completed before passing out cold
My Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Experience
My Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Experience

 

Things that I discovered-

  • I already read a lot, but a challenge put me into “beast mode”/hyper drive.
  • I love, love, love getting a reflexology session while I read.  It may be the most decadent luxury I can image (that is still productive). It was worth every single penny, and more.
  • Audiobooks aren’t good for readathons because they are so slow compared to how fast I can read.
  • I don’t like rules.  Even the ones I make myself.  I had a whole group of books that I thought I would limit myself to for the challenge.  HA! Nope.  I added the Anne Frank in at the last minute and didn’t feel bad for a moment about it.
The list of books that I am going to draw from in the 24 hour Dewey's Readathon.
The list of books that I am going to draw from in the 24 hour Dewey’s Readathon.

 

Here were the books I read:

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith.

This is the 16th book in the endlessly charming No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, set in Botswana.  Mma Precious Ramotswe is the owner of the first detective agency run by a woman in the southern African nation.  She is aptly served by her extremely efficient secretary, Mma Makutsi, who is apt to remind people that she graduated secretarial school with 97% grades. They are very funny together as they solve cozy crimes.

What I love most about the series is the tiny glimpses into southern African life as it brings back the most poignant of memories from when I was raised in the area as a little girl.  Small references will create floods of memories, so these books are an exceptional joy to me.  (And I enjoyed the HBO version of the stories.  The casting was fantastic, as was the set.) So while the characters are wonderfully drawn, the setting has an equal weight in the story.

My husband had to ask me what I was reading because I would frequently let out a giggle or HA! while reading the story.

Good for: I would recommend this book to anyone who likes cozy mysteries, who wants to get a glimpse into daily life in Botswana, or anyone who likes humorous palate cleansers in their reading mix.

Anne Frank: the Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

I am of the mind that we cannot understand this story too deeply and that the multitude of formats (autobiography, play, movie, graphic novel, etc.) only helps us get to the heart of this tragedy.  Last year, my husband and I went to Amsterdam and one of our key moments was the tour of the Anne Frank House.  It affected us profoundly, as I noted in the previous post.

This graphic novel was wonderfully done.  I found the backstory of her maternal and paternal families and the political backdrop context very helpful to understanding the results and how it impacted the family.  And see the previous post for the surprise I found in the book.

Good for: anyone who wants a new way of approaching the Anne Frank story, history buffs, families that want a way to engage their middle grade and above kids into the story.

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn

Few people are unaware of the name Gillian Flynn from her NYT bestseller and the subsequent movie for Gone Girl.  She has a gift for the fast paced and interesting thriller.  I wanted to take a completely different course for the read after the Anne Frank book, and thought this would be a good choice.  Plus it’s a novella so it would be a quick read.

This story was engaging from the very moment it opens- bawdy and seedy that let me know immediately this was no middle-grade book! We were back in the land of adults and all their foibles in search of solving the mysteries of what the fates held in store for them.   This had allusions to some of the eerie books of the past- The Woman in White by Wilke Collins, as an example. It was thrilling and perfect to get my blood racing.  If I had to do it again, I would have put it later in the readathon as I was starting to fade.

Good for: anyone who liked Girl Gone, fans of the spooky Victorian novel set up, those who like con artist themes, fans of noir

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

After getting my blood pressure up with The Grown Up, this book pushed the boundaries of how far my heart could expand before bursting.  It’s such a great example of how the YA genre being published today is rich, diverse and engaging.  Simon is a 17-year-old who is struggling to determine when and how he should come out to his friends and family.  He is involved in an email relationship with a boy who goes to his school, but they are anonymous to each other out of fear of public ridicule for being gay and also that the other will reject them.  But when they email, using secret email addresses, they can be honest and share the same struggles that they are having. Through these emails, they fall in love.  But because it’s a YA, things are never that uncomplicated, so there are the trials and tribulations as expected in a bildungsroman.

Good for: someone looking for a great gay romance story, anyone who likes YA or wants to see it done very well, those who love a good bildungsroman (as I do).

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

This was the last book I completed.  I could have just stopped after this one, and been perfectly happy with such a strong collection of books for my first readathon, but I pressed on anyway (unsuccessfully).

This was a stark, cold, distant Japanese noir telling of a young man who finds a gun.  The fact that it is next to a body of a dead man is of no concern to him.  The gun becomes his passion and obsession.  I won’t spoil anything except to say that I found this book similar in style to The Stranger by Albert Camus with it’s bleak, emotionless telling.  I thought it was fantastic and will probably read it again.

Good for: those who love the noir genre, readers of existentialism, anyone who likes Japanese novels in translation


Ultimately this was one of the most fun days I have had in a long time, and I cannot wait to do it again.  I may even try to get a small group of friends together for a weekend retreat to do something similar!

Thanks to the generous and amazing people who cheerleaded us through the hours, hosting mini-challenges and tweeted encouragement our way as we progressed through it all.  It was an absolute delight and a great way for me to bust through my TBR pile.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon: Hour 5- 1 book down!

It’s been a delightful morning, reading for th Dewey’s 24 hour Readathon. It took me a while to get started, as my eyes were just not focusing because of allergies. And with the husband underfoot, there were distractions aplenty. 

But as we come into hour 5, I finished the first book- The Woman Who Walked In Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith. This is a part of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which I love. It’s light and fun but the colloquialisms make it that you want to slow down and enjoy it a bit more. Which is the antithesis of what you want when you are trying to read for speed. But even my husband remarked about how I kept laughing and giggling as I was reading. 

This book is highly recommended for anyone who likes a good cozy mystery, anyone who is interested in the culture of Southern Africa, or anyone who wants a light and enjoyable series to follow that spends equal time with characters and setting.

My Reading Wheelhouse: the books that give me the vapors

 

Cat leaping toward books in a bookshop
My spirit animal in action

 

Being such an avid reader, I have grown to understand those types of books which make me weak in the knees, give me the vapors, and generally have me leaping in the air to grab any book that fits my specific loves.

In no particular order, I love the following categories.  I included some examples of how I describe them.  These books may not have all been 5 stars but they fit this concept, in my mind at least.

 

What I want to attempt to read more of in the future:

  • Short stories– What I tend to find is that many short stories pack a punch with strange twists or awkward interactions at the center.  I don’t generally enjoy those as they leave me a bit sad and cold.  I like more emotive than plot based short stories. I read The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpha Lahiri and it was a bullseye for everything I was looking for in a short story collection.  It was evocative, thoughtful, poignant and very beautifully written.  I fell in love with the cover of the Clarice Lispector work of Complete Stories and so when I read some fantastic reviews of it, I went out and bought a copy. I anticipate that the hunt for more lovely short stories collections will be something that I continue in 2016.
  • Non-fiction tales about death and dying– Not really the party pleaser of topics, but recently I have been drawn to a more nuanced understanding of death, dying, grief, and all the things that go with it.  Not for any specific reason, but I think reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara last year opened this door on the nature of suffering and questions of the inevitability of death.  I have a few books waiting in the wings for when I feel able to devote the mental and emotional space to reading them.  They are: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and an ARC of the  newly released When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
    • Science Fiction– I am late to this party.  There have been a few scifi books that made indelible impressions upon me (I’m talking about you, Dune !) but it isn’t a genre that I felt confident in exploring.  But last year’s Read Harder Challenge had a science fiction book as one of the tasks and in researching it, I found a treasure trove of material.  I was swept away by Moxyland by Lauren Beukes.  It was fun, sporadic, modern and filled with action.  I also read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell which blew my mind with the plot complexity, the rich characters and the depths of the themes explored.  This year I have ventured a little deeper into the genre with N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon.  That book came from a discussion of The Sparrow I had at a party and it was suggested that I look into her work.  What a revelation!  It hit so many of my most loved categories- lush writing, a swashbuckling tale, with political intrigue thrown in. I am looking forward to the second book in that series.  And then I just read an amazing book, which is probably no surprise to anyone else in the reading world… Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. What a stunning read!  And in all fairness, it isn’t a straight genre read or a straight literary fiction book, but something in between.  But that in between was magical.

Any suggestions along the themes I listed above?