Book Nook Cafe discussion

19 views
Determination Lists & Challenges > John's 2020 Mini-Challenge

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by John (last edited Dec 27, 2020 06:39PM) (new)

John | 1224 comments I don't "get" challenges related to number of books, pages, etc. However, since I've appreciated the ongoing ones here, I decided to set up one for the remainder of the year using eight prompts for those four months; they were generated relatively randomly from a long list. My rules are that I won't use a book already read, even if I recall few, if any, details. Also, given that I kind of lucked out with several "easy" options, the eight books should be existing TBR only. Overlapping books can only count towards one category.

1) Set in winter
Midnight at Malabar House

2) Orange cover
Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen Maman's Homesick Pie A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan

3) A guilty pleasure
The Demon of Brownsville Road: A Pittsburgh Family's Battle with Evil in Their Home

4) Borrowed from a friend
The Night Bookmobile

5) Author same last initial as yours
The Only Problem by Muriel Spark

6) Title beginning with B
Breakfast at Sotheby's: An A-Z of the Art World

7) Literary fiction
Traveler and the Moonlight

8) Written in first person
Hot Milk


message 2: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 19089 comments Love it ! I look forward to seeing your selections.


message 3: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments John wrote: " My rules are that I won't use a book already read, even if I recall few, if any, details...."

I had to make a similar rule, John. It almost seems that could be a different "challenge", reading books i've read but cannot at all recall. Sadly, there would be too many, i suspect.

I join Alias in looking forward to seeing what you've read. Enjoy!


message 4: by John (last edited Sep 03, 2020 08:13AM) (new)

John | 1224 comments Category #4 (borrowed from a friend)
The Night Bookmobile

Initially, I tossed this one when it came up during my random selection process, returning it realizing a friend had sent me this one a long time ago, which I hadn't opened. I'm afraid ⭐⭐ is as generous as I could manage... on to the the next book!

------------------------
(pasted review)

Sent to me by a friend a long time ago, never got around to looking it until yesterday. My first graphic novel ever (OK, it's really a short story). Started out wierd, moving on to creepy for me I'm afraid. Supposed to be a fable, but I read it as actual events (my cancer rising sign does that). Won't put me off another graphic book in the future, but as I bailed on The Time Traveler's Wife, that's it for the author. I will give her credit for the effective illustration, which another reviewer found lacking.


message 5: by madrano (last edited Sep 03, 2020 10:32AM) (new)

madrano | 11821 comments On Julie's DL page, we were discussing Audrey Niffenegger's writing and that her husband sometimes illustrates her work. Looking at the link, i cannot see whether he drew these or not, though.

Better luck with the rest of your selections. Your story about why you had the book sounds about right from my view point. For me, few folks seem to "get" my reading taste, so i have a number left more unread than read.


message 6: by John (new)

John | 1224 comments I noticed that discussion, but hesitated on upstaging the thread. I looked through the book to see the artist credit, which did not mention another individual, but that the illustrations were her property.


message 7: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 19089 comments Interesting category. Sorry to hear it wasn't a winner. I don't usually borrow books from people as my own TBR is a mountain. I think the last one I did borrow was Mad Enchantment Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies---- Ross King I gave it 4 stars.

According to GoodReads I read it back in 2017.


message 8: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments When my nephew was in Middle School, i used to borrow his YA books. It was nice to talk about them with him, as well as to learn his thinking style. By high school he was barely reading, so if i wanted to read what he was reading i had to get hold of the book on my own. The nerve!

It's been years & years since i last borrowed a book from someone else. However, this is as much because i don't know many readers, as that they aren't sharing. This is why i enjoy online book groups so much.


message 9: by John (new)

John | 1224 comments I don't generally borrow books either. Had I waited a bit, I could've used the Valley of the Dolls book, which he had also sent me, after asking if I were interested. The graphic novel was a spontaneous gesture on his part, arriving as a surprise. Those are the only times I can recall reading books borrowed from someone else!


message 10: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments Generous friend. The last borrowed book i read was Out on a Limb, back when it was the first of Shirley MacLaine's books that mentions her spiritual recollections. I'm actually not sure i finished it at that time, but did later.

As a sort of postscript, really liked her first book, an autobiography, Don't Fall Off the Mountain. None of her subsequent books was as strong, imo.


message 11: by John (last edited Sep 20, 2020 09:19AM) (new)

John | 1224 comments Category #1 (set in winter)
Midnight at Malabar House

Taking place on New Years Eve (north of the Equator), this one qualifies, even with temperatures of 70F/22C. There is one passing mention of the fact in the book. I gave it three stars, explained in the review pasted below...

---------------------------------------

I liked the setting, which did evoke memories of my visits to Bombay. The secondary characters were well done - especially Archie! The mystery angle plotting also worked well; the author does have a popular series under his belt for experience.

So, what's the issue? I wasn't all that fond of Persis herself. To me, her handling of sexism, and imperialism, came off as downright rude. However, I did like the ending of the story, which opens up the possibility that she mellows a bit.

Audio narration was okay, but not the greatest fit. The reader sounded clearly British (to me), rather than South Asian. If she reads more of the series, it's not a deal-breaker; if they want to try a different person, I'm up for that as well.


message 12: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments It's more a reading challenge when you don't like one of the main characters. It's nice that you see the possibility of mellowing, though.

Sadly, my own library doesn't have this selection, although they have another series by her, which didn't appeal to me.


message 13: by John (last edited Sep 21, 2020 07:58AM) (new)

John | 1224 comments madrano wrote: "It's more a reading challenge when you don't like one of the main characters. It's nice that you see the possibility of mellowing, though.

Sadly, my own library doesn't have this selection, altho..."


I'm not interested in his other series myself. I used an Audible credit to listen to the book; I think that by the time the sequel comes out, most libraries will have this one.


message 14: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments Probably so. I've noticed that trend. It must be challenging for libraries to figure out which series to purchase, as well as which ones their readers will want.


message 15: by John (new)

John | 1224 comments Category #6 (title beginning with a "B")
Breakfast at Sotheby's: An A-Z of the Art World ⭐⭐⭐

Pasted review:

Lots of interesting information, but the mini-essay format made for a choppy experience I'm afraid. The art history and technical considerations of assessing pieces held my interest; however, the later section on art among the obscenely rich I could've done without.

Library book, yes. Purchase, not so much.


message 16: by madrano (last edited Oct 11, 2020 09:43AM) (new)

madrano | 11821 comments Neat idea for a book. I'd like to know more about the art auction world but this book doesn't call to me. I just want to know the process, same as when i read about museums. John, i appreciate your comments on this one.


message 17: by John (new)

John | 1224 comments Category #2 (orange cover)
Maman's Homesick Pie A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen by Donia Bijan Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen ⭐⭐⭐

Pasted review...


Agree with reviewers who found the recipes the best part of the book - really interesting and original western adaptations of Persian cuisine that actually seem do-able rather than intimidating.

Her parents' story, unfortunately, I found more interesting than her own. There've been so many "running off to France to become a chef" memoirs already; moreover, she came across as somewhat self-impressed. Another reader mentioned that the family wasn't exactly destitute after the Revolution, despite their seized property. I'd have to agree that there must have been other (offshore) assets available for them to have resettled, maintaining a relatively high lifestyle.


message 18: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments It's nice when a chef offers recipes which don't warn readers away, rather than tempt one to try them. The Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and Eggplant sounds yummy.

Interesting observation about her parents & their money.


message 19: by John (new)

John | 1224 comments Category #6 (a guilty pleasure - in this case ghosts/hauntings)
The Demon of Brownsville Road: A Pittsburgh Family's Battle with Evil in Their Home ⭐⭐

(pasted review)

Bailed on this one roughly halfway through, as per my rule to do so when I have to admit that I'm forcing myself to pick up the book again rather than being sincerely interested.

I'm willing to buy into the place having been haunted. However, that's overshadowed by the author's personality, which I felt contributed to events along with the demon. Basically, he came across as self-pitying and arrogant at the same time: narcissism combo.

The haunting itself was quite creepy, though almost Hollywood-esque in details; hard to believe they could put up with it as long as they did. Maybe I had trouble in that it read more like fiction? Bottom line is that I became convinced we weren't getting the whole truth: when "everyone" in town hates you, maybe it's you?


message 20: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments Sorry to hear of your experience about the Bob Cranmer book. From the other Goodreads reviews, you are not alone in your suspicions. Bummer.

I think you are wise to cease reading when a book doesn't call you to it when you are half finished with it. I used to be one who would never abandon books but as i age, i am more fair to myself. :-)


message 21: by John (new)

John | 1224 comments Category #5 (author same last initial as mine)
Muriel Spark

My pasted review of The Only Problem follows. The only title of hers I believe I haven't read now is The Mandelbaum Gate, which never interested me much. Considering a reread of her books in 2021...

I hadn't read a Spark story in quite a long time. This one did bring back to me how much I like her writing style in general, with characters and setting well done. However, I wasn't able to appreciate the religious, philosophical theme itself.

If you've never read any Spark, do not start here!



message 22: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments I like that kind of advice, John. I'm impressed you've read so much by her.


message 23: by Julie (new)

Julie (julielill) | 2412 comments I read Memento Mori by Muriel Spark this year and enjoyed her writing.


message 24: by John (new)

John | 1224 comments madrano wrote: "I like that kind of advice, John. I'm impressed you've read so much by her."

Clarifying that I read those Spark books as a sort of binge a decade ago. Am considering re-reading her after I finish my current Barbara Pym reads.


message 25: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments I promise myself i'll reread some of my favorite authors but never make the time to do so. I admire the fact you are doing so for yourself, John.


message 26: by John (last edited Dec 11, 2020 09:53AM) (new)

John | 1224 comments Category #8 (written in first person)
Hot Milk ⭐⭐⭐

My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 27: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments Over the years i've read a number of "novels" presented in this way. Usually they work for me but sometimes the process is so tedious, i abandon the effort. You are to be commended for staying with it, John.

Glad you shared this one, especially your less than favorable comments.


message 28: by John (new)

John | 1224 comments Category #7 (Literary Fiction)
Traveler and the Moonlight ⭐⭐⭐

My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 29: by madrano (new)

madrano | 11821 comments John, i like your honest comments on the book. I hadn't heard of it, so checked the GR description. It didn't appeal to me but i was quite surprised to see that Elie Wiesel quote, "I hope The Traveler reaches thousands and thousands of readers."

It doesn't sound like my cuppa, nonetheless.


back to top