The Christmas Pawdcast

The Christmas PawdcastThe Christmas Pawdcast
by Emily March
Rating: ★★★
Publication Date: December 2, 2021
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Audible Originals

Mary Landry and her pregnant rescue dog are on their way home for Christmas when the unthinkable happens: Her car breaks down along a deserted stretch of mountain highway in the middle of a blizzard. Facing dire conditions, Mary seeks shelter from a lone cabin in the distance whose warm light beckons her like a Christmas star.

Nick Carstairs has one wish this season -- to ride out his least favorite time of the year in peace while working on the latest episode of his hit True Crime podcast. The sexy-voiced podcaster didn’t plan to host a stranger and her pregnant dog, but he’s happy to help a traveler in need … it’s an extra perk that she’s gorgeous. Now if she would just stop trying to change his mind about Christmas.

As they spend time warming up by the fire -- and an unexpected attraction roars to life -- will Mary help Nick discover the wonder of the season after all?

My last wholly read book of 2022 and I didn’t love it.  BUT there’s only one thing harder for me to do than read romance:  listen to it.  So, while I really liked the parts about the dog, and I appreciated the plausible opening of their meet cute, I didn’t enjoy the yearning bits – especially the part played by the male MC.  There were more than a few fast-forwards through the yearning, and a lot of cringing.  But it was a nice enough accompaniment while working on my jigsaw puzzle.

(This story was enjoyed by a reading friend who doesn’t like romance either, but found this one well done and with a cheerful Christmas vibe, which is why I tried it.  It was well written and cheerful – just too much with the yearning and the romancing for me – especially in audio.)

Remainders of the Day

Remainders of the DayRemainders of the Day
by Shaun Bythell
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781800812420
Publication Date: September 1, 2022
Pages: 377
Genre: Books and Reading, Memoir
Publisher: Profile Books

The Bookshop in Wigtown is a bookworm's idyll - with thousands of books across nearly a mile of shelves, a real log fire, and Captain, the bookshop cat. You'd think after twenty years, owner Shaun Bythell would be used to the customers by now.

Don't get him wrong - there are some good ones among the antiquarian erotica-hunters, die-hard Arthurians, people who confuse bookshops for libraries and the toddlers just looking for a nice cosy corner in which to wee. He's sure there are. There must be some good ones, right?

Filled with the pernickety warmth and humour that has touched readers around the world, stuffed with literary treasures, hidden gems and incunabula, Remainders of the Day is Shaun Bythell's latest entry in his bestselling diary series.

My second to last book wholly read in 2022, and there’s not a lot to say about it except if you’ve enjoyed Shaun Bythell’s previous memoirs about running a bookshop in Wigtown, you’ll enjoy this one too.  If you haven’t yet tried his Diaries of a bookseller, and you enjoy that kind of thing, AND you enjoy reading about cranky, curmudgeons, then you might enjoy giving his books a try.

Each entry includes simple stats about books ordered online (through Abebooks or Amazon) vs. how many of those books were found on the shelves (used bookstores are messy) and how many books were sold in the shop and how much money was made each day.  These stats are enough to reinforce that nobody goes into bookselling to get wealthy … or even eat.  But in spite of his plain speaking about how tough it is to make it, and how stupid people are capable of being, he fails to dim the appeal of owning one’s own bookshop.  At least, not for this reader.

My end of year stats for 2022: late, of course.

These holidays were not nearly as exciting as last years, thank goodness, but we (MT and I and the menagerie) still had a number of mini-dramas that resulted in me unplugging and going on a jigsaw puzzle binge.  Mini-dramas included, but were not limited to: sick cats, mildly ill humans, home wi-fi networks going kaput, and fractured vertebrae (MT’s not mine).  Still, it was a nice holiday, all things considered.

Bottom line:  250 books read this year.

If being off your feet for 9 months has a silver lining, that was it.  I got a lot of books read.  2022 was the year of the re-read too, with re-reads accounting for 100 of the total books.  In fact, my year of re-reading was also a year of re-reading the re-reads, with 10 books from my total being re-read twice in 2022.  I also managed to make a noticeable dent in my TBR shelves, with 24% of my reading coming from TBR books from previous years, and 35% from this year’s TBR acquisitions, meaning 146 books came off the TBR pile.  (No, don’t ask me how many went on – I don’t know exactly, but it was less than 146.  That’s my story.)

2022 was the first year I caved and used a spreadsheet.  I liked it overall, although I’m still not sure I have found the exact spreadsheet I want to use.  I’m going with it again this year because I feel like I got most of the kinks worked out and want to try it again now that I know what I’m doing.

So, here are some random stats:

How I rated the books:

I had 2 new 5-star reads this year:

One Day: The Extraordinary Story Of An Ordinary 24 Hours In America

Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure: being an account of the voyage of the Beagle, 1831-1836  (kids book, but an excellent one)

I had a whopping (for me) 7 DNFs.


Genre distribution (via Library Thing):

and finally, countries I’ve read from (note: I read 7 books in translation this year, which I’m not sure, but I think is a new high for me.)


You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism

You'll Never Believe What Happened To Lacey: Crazy Stories about RacismYou'll Never Believe What Happened To Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism
by Amber Ruffin, Lacey Lamar
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781538719367
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Pages: 215
Genre: Essays
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Writer and performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers Amber Ruffin writes with her sister Lacey Lamar with humor and heart to share absurd anecdotes about everyday experiences of racism.

Now a writer and performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers and host of The Amber Ruffin Show, Amber Ruffin lives in New York, where she is no one's First Black Friend and everyone is, as she puts it, "stark raving normal." But Amber's sister Lacey? She's still living in their home state of Nebraska, and trust us, you'll never believe what happened to Lacey.

From racist donut shops to strangers putting their whole hand in her hair, from being mistaken for a prostitute to being mistaken for Harriet Tubman, Lacey is a lightning rod for hilariously ridiculous yet all-too-real anecdotes. She's the perfect mix of polite, beautiful, petite, and Black that apparently makes people think "I can say whatever I want to this woman." And now, Amber and Lacey share these entertainingly horrifying stories through their laugh-out-loud sisterly banter. Painfully relatable or shockingly eye-opening (depending on how often you have personally been followed by security at department stores), this book tackles modern-day racism with the perfect balance of levity and gravity.

Another book I discovered by reading the Irresponsible Reader’s blog, and it sounded like something I needed to read.  I was lucky enough that my local library had this one, but I also wanted to listen to it, so I checked Orange County Library and they had the audio, so this was a co-read/listen, which worked out particularly well, as there are quite a few photographs in the hardcover edition.

This is a great book for those that feel like they need more information about modern instances of racism but don’t want to feel lectured at.  Ruffin’s goal is to keep the mood upbeat and make the reader laugh, a seemingly impossible goal in the face of these stories, but she and her sister manage it really well.  The anecdotes made this reader really, really despair for humanity, and reaffirmed my feelings that as a whole were a horribly ignorant lot.  But I also chuckled along with, and admired the hell out of, Ruffin and Lacey, because, seriously, to be able to keep your sense of humor in the midst of the shit they had to grow up with … not sure I could do it, and I use humor as a defence all. the. time.

I was also a little relived that I’ve (almost) never said anything stupid enough to end up in this book – or have ever thought of anything that came close to the crap in this book.  People are horrible.  I know I stuck my foot in it once – a horribly embarrassing moment of thoughtlessness in University, for which I instantly and desperately wished it were possible to snatch words out of the air and eat them.  I immediately apologised, but I’m betting that apology rang hollow, and after reading this, I can understand why.  I can only hope I’ve never left anyone else with anecdotes like this – and pray I never do.

The narration was done really well by both Ruffin and Lamar.  It took awhile to adjust to Ruffin’s energetic voice – because the subject matter isn’t uplifting – but once I got into the groove I was glad to have heard these personal experiences right from the source’s mouth.


by Nigel Planer (narrator), Terry Pratchett
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781407033075
Series: Discworld #20
Publication Date: January 4, 2007
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin Audio

Susan had never hung up a stocking . She'd never put a tooth under her pillow in the serious expectation that a dentally inclined fairy would turn up. It wasn't that her parents didn't believe in such things. They didn't need to believe in them. They know they existed. They just wished they didn't.

There are those who believe and those who don't. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it's helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl - even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions...

Another re-read.  My first read of Hogfather was back in 2017, and I can’t really add anything different, so I’m appending that original review here.

Actually, as the original read was of the printed edition, I will just add that I thought Nigel Planer did an excellent job with the narration, and even MT, who passed by as I was listening, mentioned he was impressed with the wide variety of voices and accents Planer gave to all the characters.

I was supposed to be doing this as a buddy read with everyone, but I’ve not been keeping my end up at all. The cold I thought I’d beaten down made a comeback at the end of last week, so I kept falling asleep every time I tried to get stuck into Hogfather. Which sounds like a terrible condemnation of the book, but is really is NOT. The book was excellent. I’d prove it’s excellence with quotes, except all my reading buddies beat me to all the quotes I liked the best.

There’s mischief afoot in the Discworld, and the Hogfather is missing. Death decides to step in and play the Hogfather’s role, visiting houses, filling stockings and doing his best to ensure that belief in the Hogfather never falters, while his grand-daughter Susan and a host of others do their best to thwart the mischief so Hogfather can come back.

This is a brilliant story – practically flawless. My only two complaints are that:

  1. Teatime is a little too evil; it adds an edge to the story that I freely admit is necessary; without it the whole thing would be a little less brilliant. Nevertheless, His story line was the fly in my lemonade; I’d be reading along having a rollicking good time and then he’d show up being manically evil, and it felt like someone let the air out of my balloons.

  2. The book kept referring to both dollars and pence. Either this was done on purpose, because it’s the discworld and can use any form of currency Pratchett would like, or else it’s an editing error that wasn’t caught during a transition from UK to international editions. If it’s the former, well, that’s totally fine. But I don’t know, so I kept wondering if it was the latter and I kept getting tripped up by the discrepancy.

In the grand scheme of things, these are inconsequential – this is, hands down, the best discworld book I’ve read so far. But Teatime’s rain on my holiday parade does keep me from going the whole 5 stars.

If you like silly fun with a side of very deep philosophy, read this book.

There’s one quote I don’t think anyone has beaten me to yet:

Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

That might very well be my favourite quote of the book.

A Hard Day for a Hangover

A Hard Day for a HangoverA Hard Day for a Hangover
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781250233141
Series: Sunshine Vicram #3
Publication Date: December 6, 2022
Pages: 343
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Some people greet the day with open arms. Sheriff Sunshine Vicram would rather give it a hearty shove and get back into bed, because there’s just too much going on right now. There’s a series of women going missing, and Sunny feels powerless to stop it. There’s her persistent and awesomely-rebellious daughter Auri, who’s out to singlehandedly become Del Sol’s youngest and fiercest investigator. And then there’s drama with Levi Ravinder—the guy she’s loved and lusted after for years. The guy who might just be her one and only. The guy who comes from a family of disingenuous vipers looking to oust him—and Sunshine—for good.

Like we said, the new day can take a hike.

This third and last instalment wraps up every last little story arc and has a few stand alone mini plots as well.  Everyone is back – even the racoon – and the pace is as fast as the first two books.  Jones can be frank and pragmatic with her characters, but she can also be sentimental as all get-out and sometimes she walks that fine line between sentimental and saccharine, although rarely crosses it.  Auri remains just that little bit too good to be true, as do most of the children in Jones’ books but she’s not unbearable at all.

I like what Jones did with the main stand-alone story arc, involving a series of missing women.  It went in a slightly unorthodox direction, and I liked it, if ‘like’ is the right word to use.  About mid-way through it becomes a bit transparent, but waiting to find out how it would unfold and how she’d handle it, made up for that.

I am so sorry to see this series end.  I love these characters and the town of Del Sol, and I’m going to miss them.


Salt: A World History

Salt: A World HistorySalt: A World History
by Mark Kurlansky, Scott Brick (narrator)
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781597770972
Publication Date: May 1, 2006
Pages: 828
Genre: History, Science
Publisher: Phoenix Books

Homer called it a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. As Mark Kurlansky so brilliantly relates here, salt has shaped civilisation from the beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of mankind.

Wars have been fought over salt and, while salt taxes secured empires across Europe and Asia, they have also inspired revolution - Gandhi's salt march in 1930 began the overthrow of British rule in India.

From the rural Sichuan province where the last home-made soya sauce is made to the Cheshire brine springs that supplied salt around the globe, Mark Kurlansky has produced a kaleidoscope of world history, a multilayered masterpiece that blends political, commercial, scientific, religious and culinary records into a rich and memorable tale.

I thoroughly enjoyed this.  It’s a straight up history, and I found it not at all boring.  On some level I knew salt was historically important, but that’s about it.  Its importance, it’s perceived rarity, the lengths cultures would go to for salt – I had no idea.  Needless to say, I learned a lot, and I liked it.  So much so that I found myself listening to this outside my car trips as I did mundane tasks at work that didn’t require my attention (cleaning tech).  Included throughout the text are recipes – mostly historical, but even so, it makes me wish I had a printed copy of this book for my shelves.

The narrator, Scott Brick, gets a lot of credit for the rating.  He did a fantastic job, reading this as if the thoughts were his own and you were in the midst of an enjoyable conversation.  Very natural, and his voice extremely pleasant to listen to.

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven

Her Majesty's Royal CovenHer Majesty's Royal Coven
by Juno Dawson
Rating: ★★
isbn: 9780008478513
Publication Date: August 3, 2022
Pages: 452
Genre: Fiction, Paranormal
Publisher: HarperCollins

Hidden among us is a secret government department of witches known as Her Majesty’s Royal Coven.

They protect crown and country from magical forces and otherworldly evil, but their greatest enemy will come from within…

There are whisperings of a prophecy that will bring the coven to its knees, and four best friends are about to be caught at the centre.

Life as a modern witch was never simple … but now it’s about to get apocalyptic.

Another reminder that it doesn’t do for me to impulse buy books while the parking meter is running.

I actually quite liked the story itself.  It’s a 3.5-4 star level read with a diverse cast, interesting characters that are well written, three dimensional participants in a well plotted story.

Unfortunately, the author’s need to … politicize?  that’s not quite the right word, but it’s the closest I can come up with … to politicize the diversity, to make this book a passive-aggressive lecture on societal ills, ruined the story for me completely.  I didn’t DNF it because the story kept me going while the society bashing kept me fuming.  Also, I paid something like 30 bucks for this book and I was, literally, invested in it.

The thing is, I know there are social problems concerning diversity and race.  It’s been a talking point now for long enough that I can’t believe there are any cave dwellers left who haven’t gotten the memo.  I don’t need to be beat about the head with stories that are constantly telling me there is a problem.  I know there’s a problem – how about we focus on how to fix said problems instead of wallowing in the crisis of their existence?  If this story had all the same characters, doing the same things, being the same people but without all the social commentary, I’d have loved this story.  It would have gripped me and I’d have been totally on-board for the sequel.  And I’d argue it would have ultimately been a book that accomplished more, because it would have been an example of healthy, functional diversity in action, taking on a pivotal point of prejudice and dealing with it appropriately.  A fictional good example, sure, but good examples have to start somewhere and that’s what stories are meant to do anyway.  I just think they’re more effective without the lecturing.  Or, at least, I sure as hell enjoy them more.

So, yeah.  If you don’t mind the social commentary, this is a good story that ticks a lot of diversity boxes.  If you don’t like to be constantly reminded of the problem, stay away from it.

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us

An Immense WorldAn Immense World
by Ed Yong
Rating: ★★★★½
Publication Date: June 30, 2022
Pages: 449
Genre: Non-fiction, Science
Publisher: Penguin Books

The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving only a tiny sliver of an immense world. This book welcomes us into previously unfathomable dimensions - the world as it is truly perceived by other animals.

We encounter beetles that are drawn to fires, turtles that can track the Earth's magnetic fields, fish that fill rivers with electrical messages, and humans that wield sonar like bats. We discover that a crocodile's scaly face is as sensitive as a lover's fingertips, that plants thrum with the inaudible songs of courting bugs, and that even simple scallops have complex vision.

We learn what bees see in flowers, what songbirds hear in their tunes, and what dogs smell on the street. We listen to stories of pivotal discoveries in the field, while looking ahead at the many mysteries which lie unsolved.

Ed Yong coaxes us beyond the confines of our own senses, allowing us to perceive the threads of scent, waves of electromagnetism and pulses of pressure that surround us. Because in order to understand our world we don't need to travel to other places; we need to see through other eyes.

I’d been looking forward to this book since I heard it was coming out, and I started it soon after I received it, but Halloween Bingo came up and the book got set aside for the duration of the game.  I had to go back and re-read a few bits to refresh my memory before picking it back up.  I mention this because the fact that it took me over 100 days to read this book isn’t a reflection on the book itself.

An Immense World is a very readable exploration of how non-human animals perceive the world, with Yong trying very hard to connect the reader to perceptions that he’s the first to admit are almost impossible for us to imagine.  Starting with the 5 senses we ourselves use, and how they differ wildly, and sometime dramatically, from animal to animal (peacock shrimp have 16 different visual receptors – we have 4) and why that’s not always the good or bad we imagine it to be, Yong than expands into the senses we can only imagine, like the use of electric  and magnetic fields.

He’s right, of course, that it’s impossible to experience the world as another animal does, but occasionally Yong comes close to bringing the reader at least a hint of what that other perception might be like.  He does this with a modicum of charts and as little rock-hard science as he can get away with, allowing any reader to expand their thinking without intimidating them.  On the other hand, as someone who enjoys rock-hard science, I wasn’t disappointed or left wanting either.  I think he found a decent balance between both audiences, and I really appreciated the color photo inserts in my hardcover edition, especially for those animals discussed that I’d never heard of before (knifefish, for example, which generate their own electricity).

There’s a lot to take in here, but I found it all interesting.  Enough so that I might re-read this via audiobook in the new year, in hopes that a bit more of what I read will sink in.

Legends & Lattes

Legends & Lattes: High Fantasy, Low Stakes, Good CompanyLegends & Lattes: High Fantasy, Low Stakes, Good Company
by Travis Baldree
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781035007318
Publication Date: August 11, 2022
Pages: 312
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books

After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time.

The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success — not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is.

If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won't be able to go it alone.

But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.

I first heard about this book from H.C. Newton at The Irresponsible Reader, and while it sounded interesting, it didn’t really seem like my kind of thing.  And then I read about it again somewhere else (I can’t remember) and thought … maybe.  So when I saw it at the shop, I just picked it up and thought what the hey?

It wasn’t at all what I feared it would be – a former adventurer trying to retire but being forced out of retirement for reasons.  Instead it’s a very … gentle book.  Even sweet.  There’s very little plot in the obvious sense; the book is entirely about friendships and how they can often develop in the most unexpected ways.

On the surface this might make it sound like a dull book, but it’s very readable and the characters all offer something interesting.  There’s a dire-cat named Amity that’s fabulous, and I’d have liked more of her (him?), and there’s a gnome whose cryptic comments about time left me wanting more explanation, or at least more information about him.  But overall the characters are all well fleshed out and likeable.  There’s a low-key, back burner romance that would qualify this book as a diverse read.

Overall, a surprisingly enjoyable read.  Yes, all the typical obstacles just melt away in a way that’s usually catnip to a critic, but somehow, that’s ok.  It just works – and maybe I was just looking for the literary equivalent of a serotonin drip.  If you enjoy fantasy and are looking for a happy read, you might enjoy this one.