I Spy Book Tag

BOOK TAG

I don’t normally do tags or challenges but I was tagged by Inge @The Belgian Reviewer  and I thought it looked interesting so I gave it a go. Thank you, Inge!

The challenge is: Find a book that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you want and do it within five minutes!!

Here goes. These are all books on my Goodreads TBR:

Food

Unknown

Transportation

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Weapon

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Animal

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Number

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Something You Read

Unknown-4

Body of Water

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Product of Fire

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Royalty

Unknown-5

Clothing Item

Unknown-6

Family Member

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Time of Day

Unknown-8

Music

Unknown-9

Paranormal Being

Unknown-10

Occupation

Unknown-11

Season

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Colour

Unknown-12

Celestial Body

Unknown-13

Something That Grows

Unknown-14

Now to tag some other people! I nominate:

Viola Bleu

Novel Gossip

Zooloo book Blog

Jill’s Book Blog

Books From Dusk Till Dawn

Susan Loves Books

Florida Straits by Laurence Shames #BookReview (@LaurenceShames) #FictionCafeBookClubChallenge @PaigeToonAuthor @CarrieJoHowe

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“People go to Key West for lots of different reasons. Joey Goldman went there to become a gangster…”

So begins this classic Key West caper, the hilarious and touching book that launched a much-loved series and introduced the world to Bert the Shirt and his chihuahua Don Giovanni, two of the most unforgettable characters in contemporary fiction.

Joey, the illegitimate son of a major NY mafioso, decides to break away from a decidedly unpromising future in the old neighborhood of Queens. But will the old neighborhood and the Family let him go in peace? Not if knucklehead half-brother Gino has anything to say about it. As Joey is finally establishing his new life in sunny Florida, Gino involves him in a disastrous scam featuring a boatload of stolen emeralds and several squads of very nasty thugs. Finding within himself resources of smarts and courage he never knew he had, Joey beats long odds and muddles through to a brilliant solution to the problems dumped on him by Gino.”

The latest fortnightly challenge in my online book group (The Fiction Cafe Book Club – check it out, it is a great place for book lovers to hang out) was to read a book set in my favourite holiday destination. Where is that, Julie, I hear you ask? Well, it’s here:

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Key West!

There are a surprising amount of books set here. One of my favourites is Paige Toon’s The Longest Holiday. I am reading another for my classic of the month, which is Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not and next month I will be reviewing another as part of the blog tour for Island Life Sentence by Carrie Jo Howe so come back on 4 June to check out that post. However, for this challenge I have stepped outside my usual genre choices and read Florida Straits by Laurence Shames.

This is the first book in Shames’s Key West Capers series which now stretches to thirteen books. I was initially drawn to it by the funky cartoonish cover. The gangster genre would not be one I would usually be drawn to but the promise of a humorous storyline intrigued me and I am always trying to stretch my reading outside my comfort zone so I decided to give it a try and I am very glad I did.

The main protagonist is Joey Goldman, the half-Jewish illegitimate son of a New York Mafia kingpin who is failing spectacularly in the family business. On the lowest rung of the gangland ladder and with no hope of getting ‘made’, he decides to swap being a tiddler in the huge pond of New York and travel to the sunnier climes of the Florida Keys to set up on his own. Dragging his reluctant girlfriend, Sandra, with him, he sets off with high hopes. Unfortunately, all does not go according to plan as you would expect and he has to battle Cubans, Colombians and his own half brother along the way.

This book is fantastic. The plot is smart and funny, the dialogue is snappy and the characters are diverse and colourful. My favourites are the staid Sandra and Bert the Shirt, a retired mafioso from New York who becomes a kind of mentor to Joey, and pretty much his only friend in Key West. Bert’s chihuahua, Don Giovanni steals the show without any lines.

What I enjoyed most about the book though was the way Shames really brought the setting and the inhabitants of Key West to life. His descriptions are spot on and very evocative – you can practically smell the sun cream and seaweed. The characters, especially the inhabitants of the condo community where Joey and Sandra end up living are so off-the-wall in the way that so many real inhabitants of Key West are (my favourite sighting there has been an elderly lady with two cats dressed in tutus on leads walking around a museum!), I particularly loved the naked landlord. This book really gave you a true flavour of Key West, which is what is what looking for when I picked it up.

I loved this book. It made me laugh, it kept me hooked and it took me back to one of my favourite places on earth. What more could you ask for, except maybe to be drinking a frozen strawberry daiquiri at Sloppy Joe’s as we speak. I wish I was there.

I enjoyed this book so much, I bought the next three in the series. If you would like to get your hands on a copy of Florida Straits yourself, you can buy it here.

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Now, here is a gratuitous picture of a pelican that I took in the Keys, just because why wouldn’t you want to see a photograph of a beautiful pelican?

Amazon/Goodreads

About the Author

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Laurence Shames has been a New York City taxi driver, lounge singer, furniture mover, lifeguard, dishwasher, gym teacher, and shoe salesman. Having failed to distinguish himself in any of those professions, he turned to writing full-time in 1976 and has not done an honest day’s work since.

His basic laziness notwithstanding, Shames has published twenty books and hundreds of magazine articles and essays. Best known for his critically acclaimed series of Key West novels, he has also authored non-fiction and enjoyed considerable though largely secret success as a collaborator and ghostwriter. Shames has penned four New York Times bestsellers. These have appeared on four different lists, under four different names, none of them his own. This might be a record.

Connect with Laurence:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurence.shames

Twitter: @LaurenceShames

Website: http://www.laurenceshames.com

Big Skye Littleton by Elisa Lorello #BookReview (@elisalorello) @AmazonPub

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Skye Littleton said goodbye to her job, her best friend, and her home in Rhode Island to start over in Billings, Montana, with Vance Sandler, a gorgeous guy she met online. On her cross-country flight, Skye shares her happy story with her seatmate, Harvey Wright, a Billings resident who knows Vance—and his reputation for heartbreak. Harvey’s infuriating advice to Skye? Go home.

When Skye arrives, she discovers that Vance has changed his mind and wants nothing to do with her. Despite the setback, Skye is determined to rebuild her life and begin a new chapter in Montana’s largest city, which sometimes feels like a small town. With Harvey’s help, Skye finds a job—and a passion for organizing closets and clearing out clutter. But as she grows closer to Harvey, she finds herself homesick for her former life. Could Harvey be her future, or is she his chance at revenge? Can Skye finally trust her own heart enough to let it show her the way home?

This was my first read of the year for the 2018 Reading Challenge of my online book club,   The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The first challenge was to read a book with food on the cover.

I’m not sure why I picked up this book originally, I think I must have read a review somewhere, but it has been sat on my TBR for a while (as have hundreds of other books, that is no indication of how much I wanted to read it. There are just too many appealing books out there and too few hours in a day!). The setting of Montana was the main draw for this book originally – the USA is my favourite place to travel and Montana is a state that I long to visit – but once I dove in, I was charmed by the whole story, not just the setting.

Refreshingly, the main character in this book is not some fresh-faced, lithe twenty-something, but a real-life, realistically-shaped, flawed but likeable woman in her mid-thirties to whom I could totally relate. At the beginning of the book, Skye Littleton is having a personal crisis which leads her throwing caution to the winds and moving across the country to a strange state where she knows no one, for a man she met on the internet. Predictably, it all goes horribly wrong and Skye has to face up to crawling home with her tail between her legs to the life with which she had become disillusioned or start again from scratch.

I was concerned that I wouldn’t buy in to anyone being so reckless, but Elisa writes Skye’s story so emotively and with such understanding that I totally bought in to why she would do something so foolhardy, and why she then can’t bring herself to go back. I was rooting for Skye from the beginning, wishing her the best and feeling every setback and every triumph with her throughout the book. The story is beautifully put together in this regard.

The location of Billings, Montana was fabulously brought to life in the book, as I’d hoped, and it has only increased my desire to visit this state. The romantic hero of the story is also realistically and sympathetically drawn, and it seems to be the perfect match for Skye, although the path of true love never did run smooth as we all know and, cleverly, I really was not sure right until the end whether Skye would get a happy ending, or even what I wanted that happy ending to be. Ultimately, I found myself wanting what was best for Skye, whether or not that was as part of a couple or single, and I could not decide what that was going to be until Skye herself realised what she wanted.

Ultimately, this is a story about a woman who has lost her sense of self and is trying to find it again, but not in a spiritual ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ way. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, I loved that book, but this isn’t the same). It is the story of someone who doesn’t love or respect herself very much and who is on a journey to understand that, until she learns to do that, she will never find a man who can love or respect her either.

This book is a cut above the standard romantic fiction. It is believable, thoughtful, emotive and warm and I totally loved it. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read an honest story about a real woman and real love.

Big Skye Littleton is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Elisa Lorello is a Long Island native, the youngest of seven children. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and taught rhetoric and writing at the college level for more than ten years. In 2012, she became a full-time novelist.

Elisa is the author of seven novels, including the bestselling Faking It, and one memoir. She has been featured in the Charlotte Observer and, more recently, Last Best News and was a guest speaker at the Triangle Association of Freelancers 2012 and 2014 Write Now! conferences. In May 2016, she presented a lesson for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association spring workshop. She continues to speak and write about her publishing experience and teach the craft of writing and revision.

Elisa enjoys reading, walking, hanging out in coffee shops, Nutella, and all things Duran Duran. She plays guitar badly and occasionally bakes. She moved to Montana in 2016 and is newly married.

On The Horns Of A Dilemma

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I was going to start this post by apologising, yet again, for the lack of regular updates. However, I read a post earlier this week by another book blogger on the topic of pointless blogging guilt, so I won’t. This is my blog, which I am writing purely for fun, and I am doing the best I can given all the other current demands on my time and energy, so we will all have to be content with that for now!

Doubtless you will want an update on my progress and I am pleased to report that I have not yet succumbed to temptation and I have not purchased any books so far this year, which is good going. Cora, who blogs over at Tea Party Princess asked me how I am doing it. Sheer force of will and a good dollop of stubbornness (which my family and friends will know I have in abundance), plus giving any place that harbours books a very wide berth. I even sent my step-children into Waterstones the other week to collect my copy of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project , which has been sat there since December waiting to be picked up, because I daren’t go in myself for fear of falling off the wagon.

However, I now find myself on the horns of a dilemma, and would seek guidance from you as to how to reconcile the problem with my current challenge.

Wednesday was my elder daughter’s 12th birthday (Happy Birthday, Mini-Me – please stop growing or I will have to stop calling you that) and she was given a copy of Caraval by Stephanie Garber. My sister, who has read the book, mentioned that it had some adult themes and suggestive passages in it that I may be uncomfortable allowing Mini-Me to read and suggested that I might want to read it first.

So here is my quandry. I have pledged not to buy, beg, borrow or steal any new books in 2017, but only read books that were in my TBR pile on 1 January 2017 and this book does not fall in to that category. I really do not want to fail in this challenge. At the same time, I do not want to allow Mini-Me to read anything unsuitable and I cannot really expect her to wait until next January to read her new book just so I can read it first.

What do I do? Is Caraval suitable for a 12-year-old who is fully conversant with the birds and the bees but not especially worldly for her age? If I read the book now, have I failed in my challenge? If I don’t, and allow Mini-Me to read it, will she be turned off literature, except books about horses, forever? (Although, they can be less than innocent – hello, Jilly Cooper!*) My sister is rather more prudish than I am (sorry, C, but you know it is true, it is one of your most endearing characteristics) so it may be that something she thinks is suggestive, I will think is perfectly acceptable. Maybe I should give it to a third party to read and assess in my stead – any volunteers? Has anyone read this book and can let me know what they think?

Any guidance gratefully accepted. Will I give in and read the book (which I really want to, it sounds great)? Will the challenge be all over? Will Mini-Me read the book and be scarred for life? Will C enter a convent? Tune in next week to find out what happens following this exciting cliffhanger!

*Before anyone calls social services, I have not allowed my daughter to read Riders yet, or any other Jilly Cooper for that matter, although I love her and do have the complete set!

A Test of Willpower

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Firstly, apologies to those of you who started following my blog after my initial post for my failure to follow up until now. It was my intention to post at least two book reviews and one other post a week, but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. I should have known better than to start a new project in January – otherwise known as silly season for travel agents. I promise to try and do better going forwards.

Anyway, I am currently writing this on my iPad in the Plaza Premium Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2, waiting to board a flight to Chicago for a 4-night city break in the Windy City with my other half (henceforth to be known as The Irishman).  Following my intention to use this blog as a record of my attempt to buy no new books this year, and use it as a tool to keep me on the straight and narrow, this post is my equivalent of attending an AA meeting for book addicts, as today is my biggest test so far of my willpower.

BECAUSE I LOVE BUYING BOOKS AT AIRPORTS!

And I mean, really, really love it. They might be my favourite place to buy books, and browsing book shops is definitely my favourite way to while away the tedious minutes between check-in and boarding. There are numerous reasons for this:

– all the new titles are here

– I’m going on holiday, so unfettered, guilt-free reading time lays ahead

– buying things for holidays is a necessity, not a treat, so totally justified

but mainly because of

– TRADE PAPERBACKS!!!!!

For those who don’t know what a trade paperback is, they are the over-sized paperback version of new books that are only currently available outside airports in hardback. So, hardback books in a cheaper, paperback version so it’s lighter to carry – what’s not to love about that? I adore a trade paperback.

My favourite author to buy in this format, and most of my complete set of his books are trade paperbacks, is John Grisham. John Grisham is the perfect holiday read. His books are well-written and gripping but not so arduous as to be hard work, because who needs to work hard on holiday? And, as a former lawyer myself, I do love a legal thriller.

But, no new John Grisham for me on this trip. We dashed straight from Security to this lounge,body-swerving all enticing purveyors of papery temptation en route. So far so good, but I fear a long 10 months and several more treacherous trips to airports lay ahead.

For now though, the second half of Claire Macintosh’s I See You awaits on my Kindle to keep me company, and 9 hours of unadulterated reading time lays ahead, so it ain’t all bad.

2017 – The Year of Abstinence

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My name is Julie, I’m 44 and I am a book addict.

There, I’ve admitted it. Reading is my passion and I spend a lot of time doing it, and I own far, far too many books. So many in fact, that I am so far behind on my TBR (the number stands at 783 on Goodreads and counting) I fear I will never catch up. Book buying is a compulsion for me, you see. Nothing makes me happier than an hour spent browsing a good bookstore and buying a book. Problem is, I can never stop at just the one….

At the current time, I have 50 books stacked in two piles next to my bed. This pile never gets any smaller and has become such a permanent feature in our house that my 9-year-old daughter has christened it Mount Bookarus. Very apt, since the erosion of this edifice is every bit as slow as the erosion of the Himalayas themselves. In fact, towards the end of last year, it appeared that the pile had in fact been pushed up, due to some kind of literary tectonic event, and the top books of the stack are now in danger of taking my eye out if I turn over in my sleep too close to the edge of the bed.

(A small off-shoot of ‘seasonal reads’ appeared in November as the start of pile three, but these were pushed back during a concerted assault over the festive period.)

Mount Bookarus is the mere tip of the iceberg, however, if you will excuse the mixed geological metaphors. There are many, many, many more unread gems stuffed into every spare bit of space in my library. (I know, I am lucky enough to have a dedicated, proper library in my house. It was the one room I insisted on including when we built our house 11 years ago and it is my favourite. If you stick with me and behave, I will share some photos of it with you here soon and make you all green with envy!)

It is for this reason that I have started this blog. I have vowed that 2017 is the year I will make a proper dent in my TBR and, in order to achieve this goal, I have vowed to buy NO NEW BOOKS in 2017.

That’s right. No new books for a whole year. Nada. Zero. Not one single one.

As a self-professed compulsive book purchaser, this is going to a be a huge challenge. So, to keep me on the straight and narrow, I am making my intention public and am going to report honestly on here as to how I am getting on and I am hoping that my readers, should I be fortunate enough to get any, will hold me accountable.

The rules of the challenge are quite strict. No buying books, no borrowing books, no being given books for free. No downloading e-books, either free or paid for. I am going to allow my friends and family to buy me books as presents for my birthday in May (otherwise, what an earth are they going to get me?) and Christmas. After all, there has to be some relief on the horizon, doesn’t there? But there will be limit of one book per person. And that’s it.

So, 2017 will be a year of reading from the books I already own. I have set my Goodreads reading challenge for 2017 at 100 books, which is achievable, as I tend to read a couple of books a week anyway, depending on length of book and what else is going on in my life. I will be reviewing all the books I read on this blog. There may be other posts that creep in too, about the other minutiae of my life, family, travels and whatever else pops into my head, but it will mainly be book reviews.

I guess it will be a little different from other book blogs, because I will not be reviewing any of the new, hot titles – for this year at least – but maybe this is no bad thing. Different is good, and you may still find some gems in things that are not new. Vintage is in, right? Hopefully my blog will be on trend in that way. Let’s call it literary up-cycling. Dusting the cobwebs off those old but precious novels that are laying unloved and forgotten in the dingy recesses of my TBR, ready to be given new life.

We are 3 weeks in to the year and, so far, I have held firm but it will only get tougher from here. So I am hoping you will help me. Get behind me, support me, and don’t taunt me with all the fabulous new books I am missing out on. (I have already started a list – January 2018 could be an expensive month). Most of all, I hope you will enjoy my reviews, and maybe find something you might want to read, even though it is not shiny and new in the publishing world. First review to come on Monday.

Apologies in advance to my local branch of Waterstones – I fear your profits will take a severe dip this year.