Sunday, December 31, 2023

Book Chase : 2023 in the Rearview Mirror

Another calendar year is in the books, and in just three more weeks, I will mark the completion of seventeen years of Book Chase blogging.  I am really looking forward to 2024 and all of the surprises the year is certain to bring to all of us. I have greatly enjoyed the last sixteen years, and I truly treasure all of the friends and contacts I've made over those years.  Without you guys none of this would have been possible...or nearly as much fun.

Proving, I suppose, that the old rule my wife often reminds me of, "once an accountant, always an accountant," really is true, I always post a statistical accounting of my completed reading year before beginning the next one. (I do realize that no one other than me is likely to care about these numbers, but I post them as a reference point I can use in future years, so bear with me for a moment.)

2023 was another good year filled with remarkable books that I will long remember. But as I mentioned a few days ago, it was also a year that I'm not completely satisfied with when it comes to the books I chose to spend my reading hours on, so I'm hoping to make a few changes during 2024. But that's next year, 

and 2023 looked like this:
Number of Books Read - 122

Fiction - 99
  • Novels - 85
  • Short Story Collections - 9
  • Novellas -  5
Nonfiction - 23:
  • Memoirs - 7
  • Biographies - 3
  • Books on Books- 2
  • Sports - 1
  • History -  4
  • Politics - 2
  • Essays - 1
  • Travel - 3
  • Written by Men - 77
  • Written by Women - 41
  • Written by Both - 4
  • Audio Books - 19
  • E-Books - 33
  • Translations - 3
  • Abandoned - 24  
  • Library Books - 83
  • Review Copies - 19
  • From My Shelves - 14
  •  Loaners - 6
  • Pages per Day: 108
  • Total Pages Read:  39,500
  •  Pages Per Book: 324

I'm not satisfied with the number of books by foreign authors that I read in 2023.  I did manage to read 42 books from countries other than the U.S. but 29 of those were from the U.K. and 5 from Canada, and that seems too easy.  Three of the others came from Ireland, and I read one each from Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Malaysia and Norway. 

Now it"s time to move on to a new year...this is going to be fun. Happy New Year, y'all.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Book Chase 2024 Reading Plan: A Shift of Focus

Looking back at a list of the 122 books I read in 2023 leaves me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, this year's reading included a handful of the best books I've ever read, but on the other, I can't help but feel that I wasted too many of the precious reading hours I have left to me. I suppose, however, that I'm lucky to finish the year feeling more positive than not about what I've been reading in the last few months.

That said, I've been considering ways that are, I sincerely hope, more likely to make me feel generally better about 2024's reading than I feel about 2023's. Some of what I've come up with seems contradictory, I admit, but this is what I'm thinking:

  • A deep dive into the back catalogs of those mystery writers who have influenced all those who followed them (writers like Anna Katherine Green, Dorothy L. Sayers, Katherine V. Forest, P.D. James, among many others)
  • Reading some relatively early mysteries by writers from Europe, Africa, Central America, South America, Japan/Asia, etc.
  • Read pioneering mysteries from women, African-Americans, Native Americans, etc. - especially those who were writing in the 1940s-1960s
  • Use Nancy Pearl's three Book Lust titles for a little help choosing books from the early 2000s that won't disappoint me
  • Reading more literary, character-driven novels no matter their genre
Here's where the contradiction comes in, though, because I also plan to:
  • Read some of the books resting on my own shelves, few of which fall into the categories up above (although my extensive Library of America collection will be a big help)
  • Accept more review copies than last year, while at the same time selecting them more carefully than ever before - and reminding myself as often as needed that publishers are not doing me a favor by providing an ARC; it's really the other way around
  • Consider reading the entire 2024 Booker Prize list, but start much earlier than I did on the 2023 list
  • Read and review standalone short stories from current magazines
  • Read 2024 titles but doing a better job of distinguishing between quality titles and "eye-candy"
  • Read more nonfiction (a goal I fail at every single year)
  • Allow for, and don't feel guilty about reading, "wildcard" books, books that come out of nowhere to force their way into my hands
I'm hoping that my energy level, family obligations, health considerations, etc. allow me to maintain the surge in my reading and blogging that began in June of 2023 when I was able to return from an extended blogging absence. Anyway, that's the plan. It's probably overambitious, but at the very least, it will be interesting (to me) to look back on this post at the end of 2024 to see how close I came. 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Amazon's Christmas Sale on E-Books Is Killing Me

 I started noticing emails from Amazon around December 23 about one-day sales and the like on a handful of e-books at a time. So despite already having a TBR list numbering several hundred books, I clicked on the link and went shopping for bargain e-books. I think I'm more easily sucked in to bargain books now than ever before because  Barnes & Noble quit carrying publisher remainders after covid. I used to buy three or four dozen bargain hardbacks at my local B&N every year before they decided to ruin that bit of fun. Anyway, here's a quick look at what I've downloaded in the last four or five days:

99 cents







That's already plenty, but I'm also waiting to pull the trigger on a couple of higher priced e-books until tomorrow in order to take advantage of the Triple Kindle Points day. This is starting to scare me now...

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The House of Doors - Tan Twan Eng (and a 2023 Booker Prize Challenge Update)


 Tan Twan Eng is on a roll. His first novel, The Gift of Rain, was longlisted for what was then called the Man Booker Prize; his second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, was shortlisted for the Man Booker; and in 2023 The House of Doors, the author's third novel, was longlisted for the Booker. 

Robert and Lesley Hamlyn are visited in 1921 at their home on the Straits Settlement of Penang by Robert's old friend "Willie" Somerset Maugham. Maugham, a traveler by nature, is there to rest up a little while he hopes to gather material for stories that will bring him a much needed cash infusion when they are published. Accompanying Maugham is Gerald, whom Maugham calls his secretary but is actually the author's thinly disguised lover. Lesley, though initially less than thrilled to have Maugham stay in her home, eventually grows close enough to the man to confide in him secrets about what life in Penang is really like for her and her friends. Maugham, always on the lookout for stories set in exotic locations, is of course all ears. 

In just a few days, Maugham hears accounts of husbands who cheat on their wives and wives who cheat on their husbands in retaliation, and he listens to Lesley recount her friendship with Dr. Sun Yat Sen from when the Chinese revolutionary came to Penang ten years earlier to raise badly needed money to support his efforts to overthrow China's Manchu dynasty. But perhaps most intriguing of all to Maugham, he hears for the first time of Ethel Proudlock, the Englishwoman who ten years earlier became the first European woman to be put on trial in Malaya for murder. Ethel, accused of murdering a man she says attempted to rape her - one William Steward - faced death by hanging if convicted of the crime. Locals, having been told by the European colonizers over and over again that "everyone is equal before the law, white or brown, black or yellow," watched closely to see what would happen now that "one of their own" was on trial for her life.

The House of Doors is beautifully written, with Twan alluding to the below-the-surface complexity of life for Europeans living in Penang during the period by describing the actual "house of doors" from which the novel's title is taken:

"We walked between the rows of painted doors, our shoulders and elbows setting them spinning slowly. Each door pirouetted open to reveal another set of doors, and I had the dizzying sensation that I was walking down the corridors of a constantly shifting maze, each pair of doors opening into another passageway, and another, giving me no inkling of where I would eventually emerge." (Page 178)

The House of Doors is historical fiction at its finest.

Tan Twan Eng jacket photo



2023 Booker Prize - Challenge Update:

I have now read seven of the thirteen Booker Prize nominees and decided not to finish two others. I have another one on hand, and the remaining three are on hold at the library. I personally rank the nine books I've spent time with so far this way:

  1. The House of Doors
  2. The Bee Sting
  3. If I Survive You
  4. Western Lane
  5. Pearl
  6. Old God's Time
  7. This Other Eden
  8. A Spell of Good Things
  9. In Ascension
Still to go:
  • All the Little Bird-Hearts
  • Prophet Song
  • Study for Obedience
  • How to Build a Boat

Monday, December 25, 2023

What I'm Reading This Week (December 25)


Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are all enjoying a blessed day with friends and family and that all your wishes come true this Christmas. 

It is strange to be beginning a new reading week on Christmas Day, so this look ahead will have to be a little shorter than usual. Last week I finished and reviewed Tom Lake, finished The House of Doors (review scheduled for tomorrow), and worked in The Bookstore Sisters, a standalone short story that Alice Hoffman wrote especially for the Amazon bookstore. Both the novels ended up on my "best of the year" list, so it was a satisfying week of reading despite being utterly underwhelmed by the Alice Hoffman short story, a story I've decided it's best for me not to review. It's a case of "if you can't say something nice, etc."

I'll be beginning the week with four books in progress. Nishita Parekh's The Night of the Storm is a holdover from last week, and I've added Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, The Last Talk with Lola Faye by Thomas H. Cook, and Family Family by Laurie Frankel. 

I'm about a third of the way through The Last Talk with Lola Faye, and so far it's my favorite of the current lot. After the book's narrator is blindsided into going for drinks with a woman from his past, someone he still blames for the death of his father, he takes for granted that she is still the uneducated redneck he remembers from growing up in rural Alabama. I'm starting to suspect that Lola Faye is there for a specific reason - and that she's much smarter than our Harvard educated narrator. I'm getting Hitchcockian vibes here.

I have heard the basic premise of Lessons in Chemistry and how popular the novel is, even to being made into a Netflix series. Admittedly, I'm still relatively near the beginning of the story, but already I'm a little surprised by the oddball characters and its comic tone. It strikes me as being some kind of feminist comedy, if that makes sense. The novel is set in 1952, a time during which women didn't have a lot of choices when it came to jobs or how they would be treated in the workplace. Elizabeth Zott, the chemist/cook hero of the novel is having none of it.

I've given up on Brendan Slocumb's The Violin Conspiracy because I've grown kind of weary of being preached at all the time about my racism and how bad things still are out there. Slocumb is a good enough storyteller, but this way too common theme is really starting to bore me now.

So if I finish one or two this week, the next reads up are going to be selected from these candidates:

 I'm considering a new approach to my reading choices for 2024 and beyond that I'm hoping will make the chosen books feel fresher and more exciting to me than they sometimes have this year. I'll mention more about that next week because at this point I'm still trying to finalize the plan. Have a great reading week, folks...and a Merry Christmas to All!

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Book Chase's Top 10 Fiction Titles for 2023

 1. Demon Copperhead - Barbara Kingsolver

David Copperfield for the Twenty-First Century

2. Tom Lake - Ann Patchett

A Mom Schools Her Three Adult Daughters on Life and Love

3. Somebody's Fool - Richard Russo

Book Three in the "Sully" Sullivan Family Saga

4. Desert Star - Michael Connelly

Bosche and Ballard Work on Bosche's "White Whale" Case

5. The House of Doors - Tan Twan Eng

Historical Fiction: Somerset Maugham, Murder, Revolution, and Infidelity 

6. The Last Devil to Die - Richard Osman
A Mystery Tear-Jearker That Will Make You Laugh Out Loud

7. Western Lane - Chetna Maroo

Three British-Indian Teens Grieve Their Mother's Death without Their Father's Help

8. The Longmire Defense - Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire Finally Learns the Truth About His Grandfather

9. A World of Curiosities - Louise Penny

A Monster Criminal from Gamache's Past Escapes Prison to Haunt Him Again

10. The Rising Tide - Ann Cleeves

Vera Makes a Rash Decision and Readers Almost Lose Her


Thursday, December 21, 2023

Sometimes You Can Only Shake Your Head: A Sad Two Days in Literary History

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald December 21 marks the eighty-third anniversary of author F. Scott Fitzgerald's death in Los Angeles at age forty-four. Not as often mentioned these days is that one of Fitzgerald's fellow authors, Nathanial West, would die in a traffic accident along with his wife Eileen the next day while returning to Los Angeles from an aborted hunting trip in Mexico - most likely to attend Fitzgerald's funeral. West caused the accident that claimed their lives on that fateful trip by absentmindedly blowing through a stop sign.

Nathanial West

West and Fitzgerald became close friends as fellow Hollywood novelists, and he is best known for his novels Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust. Eileen, as it turns out, died only four days before the Broadway play My Sister Eileen, a play based on her sister Ruth McKenney's 1938 memoir of the same name, had its hugely successful opening night in New York. She and West had only been married for about six months at the time of their deaths.

The book became the source of many other works, including the Broadway play, a musical, a radio play, two movies, and a CBS television series that aired in 1960. Sadly, Eileen lived to see none of this.

Eileen McKinney West

Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein - Anne Eekhout


Quite unexpectedly, Anne Eekhout's Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein has turned out to be perhaps the darkest and most disturbing novel I've read this entire year (and this is the ninety-fourth, so that's saying something). Coming in, I thought I would be learning more about the group challenge that resulted in Mary Shelley writing her famous novel; how she, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron reacted to each other's efforts; and how naturally (or not) each of the writers took to the "scary story" genre they decided to play around with. What I got  instead, was a darkly atmospheric look inside Mary's head as she struggled to accept fully the open marriage lifestyle she lived with Percy Shelley - a lifestyle that as often as not saw Percy in the bed of someone other than herself, including her stepsister Claire. 

Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein focuses on two distinct periods in young Mary's life. Mary spent part of 1812 living with strangers in Scotland, sent there by her father in hope that a skin condition adversely affecting both arms would clear up while she was there. Segments from those months of 1812 are alternated with episodes from Mary, Claire, and Percy's 1816 visit to Geneva where they lived alongside Lord Byron and Dr. John Polidori in rented quarters. Keep in mind that in 1816 Mary was 19, Percy was 24, Claire was 18, Lord Byron was 28, and John was 21. Even so, Mary and Percy had already suffered the loss of a daughter conceived before their marriage, and they brought an infant son to Geneva with them.

While in Scotland, Mary becomes - at least in her own mind - romantically involved with Isabella, a girl her age (14 or 15) who is still deeply grieving the recent loss of her mother. The two girls have much in common, including loss of their mothers, and they both enjoy tales about "monsters" to such a degree that they begin seeing them everywhere, including in the person of the husband of Isabella's older sister. Their collective imaginings, whispers, and speculation, about the man and what he is up to in his hidden laboratory will still haunt Mary in Geneva four years later. 

In Geneva, Mary feels like the outsider as she struggles with her relationship with the man she so dearly loves:

"And she is his great love. She does know that, but it is not easy. The fact that his philosophy is not quite hers - maybe in theory, yet not in practice - puts their love to the test again and again. Perhaps it is tolerable that, now and then, he loves another woman. Perhaps. But that it does not bother him, that he actually encourages her to share her bed with another man - that tortures her soul."

 She cannot stop thinking about Percy's relationship with her stepsister or the death of her first child and what she could have done differently to save her daughter's life. Now she is gone, and Mary desperately wants her back.

Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein, as it turns out, is not so much about the birth of what has become a classic novel. It is really about the birth of Mary's personal "monster," a monster that she carried inside her head everywhere she went for the rest of her life. This is dark stuff, but it's not something I'm going to forget for a long, long time. I will, I suspect, never again see the novel or its author the way I used to see them. 

Anne Eekhout jacket photo

Anne Eekhout is a Dutch author, and her novel was beautifully translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson (who adds interesting insight into her translation process at the end of the novel).

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Tom Lake - Ann Patchett


I've started compiling my annual list of top ten fiction reads, and have found early on that some tough choices are going to have to be made. But (spoiler alert) with Ann Patchett's Tom Lake, I never doubted even before I finished it that the novel was going to end up somewhere very near the top of my 2023 ranking exercise. Simply put, Ann Patchett is a brilliant writer - and Tom Lake is one of the best books she's ever written.

The novel is set in the spring of 2020 shortly after everyone recognizes just how incredibly dangerous the new covid virus is going to be. On one northern Michigan cherry orchard, one couple is faced with financial devastation unless they can figure out a way to get their crop harvested despite the limited amount of hired labor available to them. After their three adult daughters, all in their early-to-mid twenties, come home to quarantine and to help with the harvest, the girls ask their mother to help pass the long hours spent in the orchard by telling them about the relationship she had with famous movie star Peter Duke when she was barely their age. 

"The past, were I to type it up, would look like a disaster, but regardless of how it ended we all had many good days. In that sense the past is much like the present because the present - this unparalleled disaster - is the happiest time of my life: Joe and I here on this farm, out three girls grown and gone and then returned, all of us working together to take the cherries off the trees. Ask that girl who left Tom Lake what she wanted out of life and she would never in a million yers have said the Nelson farm in Traverse City, Michigan, but as it turned out, it was all she wanted."  (Page 253)

The memories that Lara - and eventually Joe - share with Emily, Maisie, and Nell will change all of their lives. Their appreciation of, and love for, each other will become deeper and more intense than ever before as they learn the truths (most of them, anyway) about who their parents really are and how they became those people.

Ann Patchett is a tremendous storyteller whose characters become very real to the reader as she reveals them layer, by layer, by layer. This is a family on the cusp of major life changes just when the world decides to fall apart all around them. The daughters think they have life all figured out, but their parents are about to remind them of a universal truth: they were young and thought they had it all figured out one time, too. This is their story.

Ann Patchett jacket photo

Monday, December 18, 2023

What I'm Reading This Week (December 18)

 I didn't end up reading exactly the selections I thought I would be reading this time last week, but I ended up finishing three of them: Not Dead Enough (reviewed), The Raging Storm (reviewed), and Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein (review to follow on Wednesday). I had expected to have Lessons in Chemistry on hand days ago, but it arrived late at the library and I won't be picking it up until tomorrow. Oh...I also abandoned The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis after roughly fifty pages of nonsense and silliness that never even came close to appealing to my reading taste. I suppose this shows that I take my science fiction too seriously to enjoy this kind of comedic farce.

Coming into the week, I have four books going: The Blues Brothers (which has been tabled for two weeks now), The House of Doors (which is turning out to be much better than I expected it would be), Tom Lake (one of the most refreshing and beautifully written novels I've read this whole year), and The Night of the Storm (see below).

I'm only 20 pages into Nishita Parekh's The Night of the Storm but I'm really curious to see how it plays out. The novel is set in a Houston suburb on the night that Hurricane Harvey blows into town. A young woman and her son are at her sister's fancy home to shelter from the storm with a small group of people, mostly family. All very normal for Houstonians right up until someone dies - is it murder or an accident? Is there actually a murderer trapped in the house with them? Should be fun, and I'm curious to see how realistic it all reads as regards the storm and what it's really like to sit tight as one goes by. (Believe me, I'll be able to judge for myself.)

Definitely coming up this week because they have already been renewed the two times I'm allowed to renew a book are these:

This one is described by its publisher as "a riveting page-turner about a Black classical musician's desperate quest to recover his lost violin on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world." The violin is being held for ransom, with "the descendant's of the man who once enslaved Ray's great-great-grandfather asserting the instrument is rightfully theirs." I've flipped through the book a little, and I like the author's style. At this point, I'm just hoping that it's not a super-woke plot that ends up boring me with its required predictability.

I put The House of Doors aside for the last few days, but I'm looking forward to getting back to it. It's turned out to be a really unusual plot that combines literary biography with the murder trial of a British woman in Malaysia who killed the British man who tried to rape her. The biography/historical fiction portion of the plot involves Dr. Sun Yat Sen and the British colonial system as regards that part of the world. This was also a Booker Prize nominee. 

And these are getting ever-closer to the top of the stack:

Of course, there's no way any of us can anticipate much of anything regarding our schedules for the next two weeks, so you might see some of these on the TBR-this-week list again next week.

 Happy Reading, guys.

Friday, December 15, 2023

The Raging Storm - Ann Cleeves


The Raging Storm, the third novel in Ann Cleeves's Detective Matthew Venn series, once again finds Venn and his team working to identify a killer in a community with which Venn is uncomfortably familiar. Venn may have been a very young man when he was tossed out of his mother's closed and cultish church, but the memories and scars from that experience are still fresh ones. 

When Jem Rosco, a national celebrity sailor/adventurer is murdered and his body left in a small, securely anchored dinghy off of Sully Cove, Venn and his team are assigned the investigation. The community had been pleasantly surprised when Rosco came home to rent a place and hang out most evenings in the pub with the locals, but their pleasure and pride turned into shock after they learned exactly how the man had been killed. 

Jem Rosco had lifetime ties to the village of Greystone, as does his killer - but so does Detective Matthew Venn...and that's going to be a problem.

"Since losing his faith, and marrying Jonathan, he hadn't been back. As they approached, he felt a little embarrassed by the boy he'd been, but interested to visit again a place where he'd been so happy."


"A community that policed itself sounded dangerous to him, with an undercurrent of control, bullying. The Brethren had never liked outsiders looking into their business, and perhaps he was wary because of his experience with them. He wondered how many of the younger villagers were still members."

Venn is in charge of a murder investigation in which his personal judgement is clouded by his past and what he experienced during his childhood visits to Greystone. Venn begins to wonder how easily he can be duped and mislead by suspects with which he has so much in common, and before this one is over he will be tested in ways he cannot yet imagine.

The Raging Storm is the Matthew Venn novel in which I really began to understand Matthew Venn, a man so deeply scarred by his childhood that even as an adult he has difficulty tempering his cold, suspicious nature long enough to acquire even the most superficial of friends. When it comes to close friends (other than his husband, Jonathan), forget it. That's not going to happen. My familiarity with its main characters made The Raging Storm much easier to connect to for me than the first two series books had been. I anticipated a solid four-star rating for this one, in fact, right up until an ending style that has irked me before in an Ann Cleeves novel, one that is much more "tell" than it is "show." I don't enjoy endings where the chief investigator "recaps" for the rest of the team all the things that have happened offstage while I was scouring the book on my own for clues to the killer's identity. I have never enjoyed that kind of ending, and I never will. So, disappointedly, I'm giving The Raging Storm only three stars instead of four - and wondering just how anxious I'll be to read the next Ann Cleeves novel.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Not Dead Enough - Phillip Thompson


"He was a giant vortex of reckless. You know that. And the man is dead." "Not dead enough," Flip said. "It's like he's aways around."

 Mississippi County Sheriff Colt Harper and his deputy John Carver are still haunted by something that happened on the Iraqi border after the 9-11 mass murders. They do wonder if they could have done more to keep their reckless buddy from so needlessly getting himself killed that night, but no one feels worse than Robert "Flip" Wilson, the marine who was there when it all happened. 

Colt Harper and John Carver also share an unbreakable bond between themselves and their fellow combat veteran marines. So when "Flip"  becomes the chief suspect in the murder of a man whose body is discovered in Colt's rural county by two local fisherman, Colt finds himself in a real predicament. Is his first responsibility to get justice for the dead man or to protect his unstable war buddy? A little to John's dismay, Colt's sense of justice will not allow him to treat this case differently from any other.

And this is where the real fun in Not Dead Enough starts, because Wilson didn't turn up in Mississippi unnoticed. Hot on his trail are some very dangerous killers from Los Angeles and Memphis, and if Colt doesn't get to Wilson before they do, his friend is going to end up very, very dead. 

Not Dead Enough is the fourth book in Thompson's Sheriff Colt Harper series, but it's my first experience with Harper and deputies John Carver and Molly McDonough, both of whose backstories are explored in some detail here. The novel works well as a standalone, but I'm curious now to learn how much more was revealed about their relationships in the first three books. In Not Dead Enough, Molly is the more interesting of the two because of her struggle with sobriety as a deputy sheriff who has been sober for exactly one year. I would really like to know what made Colt take the chance of making her such a key part of his department -so I now plan to go back and read the first three Sheriff Colt Harper books. I suspect this is a series that could really grow on me.

Phillip Thompson

The Colt Harper Series:

  • Outside the Law (2016)
  • Deep Blood (2017)
  • Old Anger (2020)
  • Not Dead Enough (2023)

Monday, December 11, 2023

What I'm Reading This Week (December 11)


My library has come up with a new scheme for checking out books that I'm still trying to adapt to. I understand why the change was made, and I think it's a great idea because it keeps books in circulation and should cut down on hold-times. But it's made it much more difficult  for me to predict what I'm going to be reading from one week to the next.  

The old system allowed for an immediate six-week checkout period for any book that was not on another patron's hold list. Books on hold by others were limited to two-weeks. The new scheme, however, limits all initial checkouts to two weeks...then when the books get within five days of their due date without having been returned, the library software automatically renews them for another fourteen days if no one else is actively requesting a copy. The same thing can happen again two weeks later, so the total checkout period can still add up to six weeks.

But when you have twelve to fifteen books checked out at all times, the near constant rotating of due dates makes it virtually impossible to predict exactly which book is going to become due first. Consequently, I'm tabling a bunch of half-read books because others suddenly turned out to have shorter fuses attached to them than the ones I've been reading.

All whining aside (finally), I did finish three this week: This Other Eden by Paul Harding, The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman, and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman. As a consequence of the library changes I mentioned, I'm carrying these partially read books into the new week: The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves, The Blues Brothers by Daniel de Visé, and Not Dead Enough by Phillip Thompson. 

I've also read the first few chapters of Tan Twan Eng's Booker Prize nominee The House of Doors, and I've already been pleasantly surprised by Eng's prose style and plot construction. Somerset Maugham is in 1921 Malaysia, along with his thinly disguised secretary/gay lover, researching his next novel when he discovers that his host's wife may have relatively recently had an affair with Chinese revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat Sen. He starts digging for details, but the story he hears turns out to be not at all the one he expected.

This afternoon I'm picking up two books for which I've been waiting several months (Tom Lake and Lessons in Chemistry), and both of them immediately jump to the top of my priority list because I know that the checkout period for neither is likely to be extended beyond two weeks.  

Others I'm dying to get to include:

It's all a bit unpredictable, really, but with all of this choice it is guaranteed to be another pretty good reading week. I wish you all the same.