TBR Friday: Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns…

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TBR Friday

I desperately needed a quick read to squeeze in another book to keep up the momentum in my Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017  and lo and behold, there was Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns by Doug MacLeod sitting on the shelf waiting to step into the breach.

sister madge

Ten Second Synopsis:

The blurb at Goodreads tells us only that this book is “A collection of stories of life behind the walls of the Convent of Our Lady of Immense Proportions” and that should give you pretty much all the information you’ll need to help you decide whether or not you’re going to pick up this book.  In case you need more convincing, this a collection of fictional poems written by a fictional nun about all the other fictional nuns living at their fictional convent.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

A year, roughly?  Probably longer.

Acquired:

I had this book on my Goodreads TBR list and then I came across it on special at Booktopia so decided to snap it up.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

Sheer laziness.  Or, in more biblical terms, rampant sloth.

Best Bits:

  • The fact that the convent is called “Our Lady of Immense Proportions”.  Honestly, that’s enough of a laugh in itself to justify buying the book.
  • The poems take up about a page each and are accompanied by amusing illustrations.  There is enough variety in the personal vices of the nuns presented here – from feeding small children to zoo animals, to reading Women’s Weekly magazine, to riding motorbikes through a corner store – to amuse and delight even the most staid of religious zealots.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • This is a niche sort of a book that doesn’t necessarily warrant much of a re-read although it would be good to pass around to like-minded friends and colleagues.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

I suspect I could have had similar enjoyment from this one had I just borrowed it from the library.

Where to now for this tome?

To be sold at suitcase rummage.

I’m glad I’ve finally got this one out of the way, even though it is such a short book that I could have read it any time.  I promise that at the end of this month I’ll have a longer TBR book for you – Greenglass House is what I’m aiming to have read.  You can check out my progress toward the Mount TBR Reading Challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “All the Single Ladies (and one Man)” Edition…

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Welcome to another Reading Round-Up!  Today’s books all feature single ladies (or single men) and we received all of them from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Let’s hop to it!

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (Phaedra Patrick)

Ten Second Synopsis: the curious charms of arthur pepper

Elderly Arthur finds out after his wife’s death that there is much he did not know about her life before she met him. He sets off on a quest to unravel the secrets of her charm bracelet.

Muster up the motivation because…

…if you enjoy quirky, feel-good stories featuring intrepid old folk then you should enjoy this.  Having said that, I do enjoy such stories, but elected not to finish this one.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the book per se, but the characters were a bit two-dimensional for my tastes and some quite unbelievable events had me not particularly connecting with the story.  I must have had the US edition as well, because Arthur uses the word “bangs” for fringe, and “trunk” for boot.  This completely threw out my engagement with the story, because it is inconceivable that an Englishman of Arthur’s vintage would ever have used the word “bangs” in that context, ever, for any reason.  **Honestly, can’t we give Americans more credit? I’m sure they could figure out what “fringe” meant given the context of the scene.  **  This would be a great choice for those moments when you’d like a light uplifting read that certainly won’t ask you to work too hard.

Brand it with:

Positively charming, oldies’ road trip, secrets from beyond the grave

The Woman Next Door (Yewande Omotoso)

Ten Second Synopsis:  the woman next door

Hortensia and Marion don’t like each other. Both have a hidden history. Both are alone. Slowly, and with great mistrust, they might grow to like each other. Or at least not loathe each other.

Muster up the motivation because:

This has all the features of your typical grumpy-old-ladies story, but with the added interest of being set in South Africa and delving unapologetically into the social and racial divides that plague that nation.  I did enjoy parts of this story but found it to be quite heavy going in certain sections.  Add to that the fact that Hortensia is thorny and often acerbic while Marion is the absolute reflection of late-to-the-party, trying-to-atone-for-years-of-racial-disinterest white privilege and the book might inspire some very uncomfortable moments of self-reflection for certain readers.  There’s a lot going on in this book, not least of which is the women’s fears about aging, regrets and surprises from their deceased spouses and whether the ship bearing the chance to atone for past transgressions has sailed.  I will admit to an expectation that this book would be more humorous than it is – the humour here being so dry as to be crumbling to dust.  Certainly though, this is an unexpected and unusual examination of many aspects of womanhood, motherhood, wifehood and sisterhood.

Brand it with:

Sisters doin’ it for themselves, grey areas, mean (old) girls

Sister Eve and the Blue Nun: Divine Private Detective Agency #3 (Lynne Hinton)

Ten Second Synopsis: sister eve

Sister Eve returns to the monastery after a brief leave of absence to attend a conference. All goes to pot however, when one of the key note speakers is found dead the night before an important speech.

Muster up the motivation because…

If you enjoy murder mysteries that are more about the enjoyment of a good murder romp than actually being believable, you should get a kick out of this.  It didn’t particularly float my boat, only because the events of the second chapter were so unbelievable that I couldn’t take the rest of the story seriously in any way.  I speak of the immediate aftermath of the murder in which, upon hearing of the death of the victim, Sister Eve doesn’t immediately rush to the scene to render first aid or at least see what the situation is, and instead has a prolonged chat with the victim’s brother.  Then there’s the fact that on arriving at the murder scene, Sister Eve interferes with a crime scene and actually BREAKS a major piece of evidence.  Finally, there’s the fact that nobody who hears of the fact that there may be someone dead or dying on the premises bothers to call the police.  These three things in quick succession diminished my engagement with the story tenfold.  The rest of the book follows the usual murder-mystery path with red-herrings and set-ups and the rest before an action-packed reveal.  A fun addition to the genre, but not my cup of tea, sadly.

Brand it with:

(Religious) sisters doin’ it for themselves, brotherly love, murder in the monastery

I hope you find something to lasso and take home in this lot!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Scaling Mount TBR: The Whitby Witches…

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Thank you for joining me as I claw my way up the teetering goliath that is my current TBR pile. Today’s book is one I picked up second-hand after having placed it on my wish-list very soon after Mad Martha returned from a memorable sojourn to the seaside town of Whitby in the UK, declaring that we should now search out and read every book ever written with Whitby as a setting. And there have been a lot. Although we still haven’t read the most famous by far.

Here’s a picture of Mad Martha enjoying the B&B in which she stayed. If you squint, you can just see a bit of the Abbey in the distance out the window:

mad martha whitby

And here she is enjoying a long-awaited wash in the Whitby Laundromat washing machine:

mad martha whitby 2

 

And just for fun, here’s one of the Abbey that looks like it’s screeeeeeeaaaaammmming!

abbey screaming

But I digress. Today’s book is The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis, a rollicking and surprisingly dark (in places) tale that was first published in 1991, although it has the ring of a book published much earlier. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

At first glance, the small seaside town of Whitby seems quiet and charming, but eight year-old Ben and his older sister Jennet soon learn that things are not always as they seem. Moved about from foster home to foster home, Ben and Jennet hope to make a fresh start in Whitby. But Ben sees things and people others cannot. There’s something unusual about Alice Boston, their new guardian. And what is that horrible howling Jennet hears late at night? Something wicked’s brewing in Whitby. Can Ben and Jennet put it to rest?

whitby witches

This was an unexpected reading experience for me because there was just so much story packed into the pages. There are the witches and witchiness of the title of course, but then there are fantastical creatures, an ongoing (and progressively more deadly) murder investigation, a strange nun that might not be what she seems, an ancient curse, pregnant cats, as well as an astoundingly action-packed climax that features time-travel along with everything else.

And does anyone else think that Alice Boston bears a striking resemblance to one of the TV versions of Miss Marple??

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Extraordinary!

So I didn’t expect there to be quite so much going on in this book, but I really appreciated how the author gives the young reader enough credit to put in some pretty creepy content. For a start, there’s the terrifying hound on the cover of this edition. Then there’s quite a lot of violence directed towards old ladies. I was genuinely surprised at a few points that Jarvis was brave enough to pen the deaths of the aforementioned old ladies in such vivid, atmospheric detail.  Actually, now that I think about it, there are a number of scenes that had me thinking, “Oh, that’s a bit shocking!” and this disposed me fondly toward the author for having the gumption to trust that younger readers can handle some grisly, scary stuff and come out the other side unscathed. I suspect this is why the book felt like one that was published before the 90s, because there doesn’t seem to be any coddling through the difficult bits.

Overall, this is one of those stories that has all the classic elements – abandoned siblings, a setting oozing with its own character and history, mysterious magic and just plain, unadulterated adventure! As this is part of a series, I will now add the others in the set to my ever-growing TBR pile and hopefully get to them in the not-too-distant future.

I recommend The Whitby Witches to anyone (especially mini-fleshlings of the upper middle-grade persuasion) looking for good old-fashioned feats of danger and derring-do.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s Lucky Dip: Tales of the Nunexpected…

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Nuns. Those habit-wearing, good-habit-enforcing ladies of virtue.  One could be forgiven for thinking that a search for tomes about Nuns could turn out to be a banal and unrewarding exercise. As it turns out though, one would be mistaken.

For those unfamiliar with Bruce’s Lucky Dip feature, it involves my good self entering a particular search term into the Book Depository’s mighty search engine, and collecting the most interesting and unexpected results for your perusal.  To that end, I present to you some of the fruits of this most enlightening of search terms…..”Nuns”….arranged in ascending order of raised-eyebrow-height:

Nuns Having Fun Calendar 2013

nuns having fun

The perfect gift for those misguided souls who believe that nuns do little more than eat, pray and love.

Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art and Arson in the Convents of Italy

nuns behaving badly

I can only assume that the arson resulted from overzealous use of candles during Adoration.

Nun Bowling Kit

nun bowling

This delightful little kit provides the perfect post-Christmas-dinner activity for everyone from Great-Grandma Mary down to little baby Paddy.  As the tagline promises, “It’s Sinfully Fun!”

Flying Nuns Kit

flying nuns

For the slightly more irreverent nun-fancier, this kit includes a miniature catapult and Judgement Day landing mat.  Alternately, use it as a platform for giving expression to your repressed desire to be Sally Field.

Nun-Chuks Kit

nunchucks two

For the most extreme of nun ninjas (or nunjas, as I prefer to think of them), those with aggression impulse control issues relating to early experiences in Catholic schooling, or simply those who support the practical application of the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”, these nun-chucks actually have nun-shaped handles. Genius.

The Secret Life of Nuns

secret life of nuns

Nuns. In compromising positions. Not for good boys and girls.

So there you have it. Just a smattering of the nunexpected on offer for those prepared to delve into more spirited forms of book-hunting.  As ever, please feel free to chime in with your own nun-related tomes!

Until next time,

Bruce