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Avid reader and history nerd.

Currently reading

Cavalier: A Tale of Chivalry, Passion, and Great Houses
Lucy Worsley

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Jemidar has read 64 books toward a goal of 78 books.

quotes Jemidar likes

Forever, Erma

Forever, Erma - Erma Bombeck
Not quite my thing but that's okay because I don't particularly think I'm the intended audience for this. It's more of a tribute for fans which I'm really not. I only picked it up because I vaguely remembered reading one of her books back in the 1980s and I thought I'd liked it.
Rutherford Park - Elizabeth Cooke
Okay, I admit it. This is a clear case of cover lust :-).
Jane And Prudence - Barbara Pym, Jilly Cooper
More like 4.5 stars.

Dear Simran,

This book was very good and I enjoyed it very much. I think you should read it.

Kindest Regards,

Daphne Du Maurier - Margaret Forster
Buddy read with Kim :-).
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
I love this book. I think I've loved this book ever since it was given to me as a set text back in high school, but this time around I loved it even more. Why? I think it was because it was the first time I'd read it since becoming a parent and it gave me a whole new perspective.

This time, post kid (I only had one) I fell head over heels in love with Atticus Finch. When I mentioned this to my good friend Kim, she replied: "Everyone should be in love with Atticus. He's a role model for humanity." And you know what? I couldn't agree more. The world needs more people like Atticus Finch. Especially if they are parents.

Buddy reread with Anna :-).
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
This book was a lovely surprise because it had been one of those books I bought on whim when I saw it on sale, then left it sitting on the shelf for a couple of years because I was unsure if I really did want to read it after all. But I'm really glad I finally got around to reading it because it was so much better than I expected. I just love it when this happens.

This is a delightful book which focuses less on the actual circus than I had expected and much more on the characters, both human and animal. The story is told in flashbacks by the narrator Jacob and I just loved him, young and old. Old Jacob's relationship with Rosemary (an employee at the nursing home) and young Jacob's relationships with Walter (the dwarf), Camel (an elderly circus hand) and Rosie (the elephant) were warmly human, poignant and the best part of the book. For me the romance came second, Rosie was the real heroine.

One of the main reasons I was dubious about this book was that I'm not a great fan of circuses or circus culture. They have an abysmal record when it come to cruelty towards animals and I expected the worst. Having said that, yes, there is some animal cruelty included in the story but not as much or as 'in your face' as it could've been, and it was an essential part of the story that couldn't possibly have been left out.

My one real gripe with this book was the prologue which in my opinion should've been edited out. It would've been a much better story without it. By the end I felt like I had been deliberately mislead, and I hate it when authors do that.

Another great buddy read with Anna :-).
Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France - Lucy Moore
More like 4.5 stars.

Women's roles in revolution has interested me ever since I studied Modern European history at uni so I was very excited when I found this book. I was even more excited when I discovered it covered some territory I wasn't all that familiar with.

This accessible bio covers the lives of six women (from all classes) who lived and were politically active (or as active as women were allowed to be) during the French Revolution and Napoleonic era. It refreshingly tells the 'other' side of the story, essentially how the various political ideologies and stages of this tumultuous time in France changed women's influence and positions in society. And while that may sound somewhat dry it wasn't at all. I found it very readable and at times almost gossipy (my favourite type of bio) although that's not to say it wasn't well researched with lots of notes, references, glossaries and gorgeous colour plates. Be warned though, it probably pays to know your French Rev. basics before reading as what the men did is mainly covered in reference to the women.

Most enjoyable, as was reading it with my good friend Kim :-).
The Argentinian Virgin - Jim  Williams
More like 3.5 stars.

This is a really hard book for me to rate as I really liked the author's writing style and found it to be an enjoyable page turner. However, there's something about it that didn't quite gel for me. Not really sure what it was but I suspect I didn't quite buy into Tom, a pivotal character in both the mystery and the relationship dynamics of the group. Everyone loved Tom. Everyone it would seem but me.

Basically it's a story about a group of rich, carefree and careless Americans hanging out in France during WWII. As the Germans invade they leave Paris moving further south, meeting up with a young Irish writer along the way. There's kind of a Gatsby vibe to the set up and Pat, the young Irish writer, plays the Nick Carraway type observer. That summer in 1941 will be life changing for them all and twenty years on Pat wants to find out what really happened.

Parts of the mystery I guessed but other parts were a surprise, and there was a nice twist at the end. Occasionally the first person narration strayed into difficult territory as there was stuff the reader needed to know that Pat couldn't know at the time which often led to distracting jumps in time. On the whole though it was an interesting and enjoyable read.

Thanks to LibraryThing: Early Reviewers and Marble City Publishing for making the ARC available.
Excellent Women - Barbara Pym, Alexander McCall Smith
Really 4.5 stars.
All The King's Women - Derek Wilson
While not bad, this bio of Charles II definitely doesn't live up to the promise of the title.
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Really 4.5 stars.

Okay, I admit it, the hype got to me and when I saw this on sale my curiosity got the better of me. And I'm so glad it did.

This is a deliciously dark and twisted tale about a toxic relationship told alternately from the differing points of view of Amy and Nick, the husband and wife concerned. It starts off on their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy goes missing and twists and turns its way through the police investigation into Amy's disappearance and their back story as you sink deeper and deeper into the disturbing mire that is their mess of a marriage.

It's a well written page turner that at times is smart, subtle and unexpectedly funny. The author's observations about subjects as various as relationships, suburbia, the recession, feminism, rednecks, New York princesses and journalists were IMO often spot on. While none of the characters in the book were likable they were all at some point human, recognizable even if the very same traits that made them recognizable were also exaggerated for effect. For me this was much more than just a thriller. I loved it's subtle layers.

However, taken at face value it is a clever thriller and one hell of a crazy ride. Anna and I guessed some of the major twists and turns but not all, and some of the minor details where so 'out there' that you just don't see them coming. Towards the end I couldn't figure out how it could all be resolved but it was. And how! Brilliant ending that in my books was totally appropriate and couldn't have been bettered.

Be warned, some of the hype is misleading and I found this to be so much more than what I expected. I loved it and will definitely be reading more of this author.

Another fantastic buddy read with Anna. You know our wild speculation always adds so much more to the experience :-D.
Nine Coaches Waiting - Mary Stewart
Group read with the Mary Stewart group.

Tango in Madeira

Tango in Madeira - Jim     Williams
I must admit, when requesting this ARC of Tango in Madeira by Jim Williams from LibraryThing I was expecting a very different book than the one I got. I was expecting a light, quirky cosy mystery. Yes, there is a murder which is solved by the protagonist by the end of the book. Yes, it is also peopled by numerous quirky characters, including cameos from George Bernard Shaw and Agatha Christie, but as delightful as all that is it’s thankfully not the sum total of this well written novel.

Set on the island of Madeira in the early 1920s, this often funny and poignant novel weaves various themes around the central story of the murder of an unknown man called Robinson. The author has a good feel for the setting and times so the first half of the novel is an enjoyable meander through the expat and local communities of post WWI Madeira. Around the halfway mark, the tension ramps up significantly and we are plunged into the mystery proper. As always there’s a lot more to it than first meets the eye.

On the whole, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read which also provided plenty to think about.

ARC provided courtesy of LibraryThing: Early Reviewers and Marble City Publishing. Thanks!
Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
I love Kate Atkinson. Her prose style is always superb and her characterization wonderful. In this, her latest offering she also gives us much to think about.

The story at its most simplistic reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray’s character has to relive the day over and over again until he gets it right. In his case it wasn’t very complicated, it was a simple scenario of guy meets girl, guy wants girl, guy must become worthy of girl, the end. In Life after Life we follow Ursula through her many lives, lives that are complicated by everyday things like snowstorms, celebrations, the randomness of chance as well as the cause and effect of individual actions. Not to mention a couple of world wars. And it’s not just a case of finally getting it right, as every time she thinks she’s headed off one disaster her actions may or may not cause another.

Ursula appears to live her lives in a linear sequential fashion but there is also something very circular (cyclical, if you like) about them. When one ends the next begins. It would seem that it’s the journey that counts and as a reader I found these journeys compelling. I laughed and cried, and felt like I shared something special with these characters. And as I said before, they gave me plenty of food for thought. I would also like to compliment Ms Atkinson on her glimpses into the very human side of living (if it could be called that) through WWII in both England and Germany.

I will definitely be reading this again not just because I want to spend more time with Ursula and her family through their various ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs but because I know that there is so much more to find there hidden in the layered text. I feel like I have just touched the surface with this my first read.

Another enjoyable buddy read with my good friend Kim :-).
A Proposal to Cicely - Georgette Heyer
Short contemporary (1922) story. Probably only rates three stars because I can't bear to give Heyer anything less. This is her first published short story and it shows. However, a must read for the Heyer completest.
The Stranger's Child - Alan Hollinghurst
Closer to 4.5 stars.

At heart, a beautifully written, intriguing story about a young aristocratic (soon to be famous) poet spending a weekend at the family home of his shy, innocent Cambridge friend just before the outbreak of WWI and deftly weaves it's way through the reverberations of the decades that follow. Told from differing POVs, who sometimes are only loosely connected with the original characters, it weaves various threads into a satisfying tapestry of interconnected lives. It's underlying themes of truth, memory, history, war, class and gay issues add substance to the wonderfully human characterization.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and want to thank my good friend Kim for bringing it to my attention, and also for patiently suffering through a slowish buddy read with me :-).