Book Bingo 2023

This year I’ve compiled a document filled with previous book bingo categories and found it’s a thousand times easier to pick 24 from the list than it is to try and remember or think up ones every new year. One of those things that would have been handy years ago but at least I have it now. I found some on there I’d used years ago and totally forgot about, as well as scouted some new ones for something different.

My reading has developed so much over the years I now read women authors and LGBTQIA+ authors and books more than I did when I started, of course that’s in part to more diverse books being published, as well as partaking in great challenges like the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge when it was running. Now I can be a bit more creative in my bingo, and vaguer so I can fill them with whatever type of book I choose.

I like the choices I’ve made, I still have some set categories because there’s so many books I have in mind to fill it, plus categories reoccur for a reason, it’s always a good decision to reread things or hunt out classics, and of course, keep clearing the TBR.

I’ve included the link if you’d like to download the Bingo card for yourself, or search the tag if you would like to check out previous years. I hope to keep a closer eye on my reading this year than I have in the past and actively fill some of these categories. Fingers crossed!

Download Bingo Card

 

 

I’m Sticking with You by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

Published: 5th May 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Henry Holt & Company
Illustrator: Sam Small
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Bear and Squirrel are best friends. Wherever Squirrel goes, Bear follows. Bear vows to stick with Squirrel whether he’s grumpy, or silly, or mad–which is put to the test when Bear sinks Squirrel’s canoe. And catapults him from the seesaw. And breaks his favorite mug.

Finally, Squirrel has had enough. He tells Bear he needs his space–only to realize he has much more fun with his best friend around. Funny and poignant in equal measure, I’m Sticking with You shows that friendship always finds a way.

This is a story of friends who do everything together, helping each other through thick and thin and always being there when they’re needed. It also is about needing time apart and taking a break from one another, understanding it’s ok to have some time alone and needing your own space. Through Bear’s big presence it’s easy to see how Squirrel would need some time alone and not be crowded and inconvenienced by Bear.

Small’s illustrations show the vast size difference between Bear and Squirrel which reinforces some of Squirrel’s feeling of suffocation. The images of Squirrel sitting on Bear are adorable as well and the friendship between one very large animal and one small animal has always been a favourite depiction of mine in picture books.

There’s compromise as the realisation comes they need their friend and they miss them. It was sweet how Prasadam-Halls describes them as joined at the heart. It’s a beautiful way to describe their friendship.

It’s a basic story but one that shows off a sweet friendship and the love between two friends.

You can purchase I’m Sticking with You via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

2023

As a whole 2022 wasn’t the great success I have had in the past. I completely forgot to do my Book Bingo – not even as in I forgot to keep track like before, more like I didn’t even make it in the first place. I did create my Top 5 list so that was something, and while I didn’t have a great posting year, I did try hard to come back by the end before the busyness of the holiday season took over.

I have been think a lot this past year about my blog and what I’m doing with it. I keep thinking if I haven’t got the energy to write the reviews I should stop, or find a way to scale back. But the problem with that is when I do actually force myself to write reviews and make posts I enjoy it. I love telling you about the books I’m reading and sharing them in hopes you’ll read and fall in love with too. Even the bad ones I can give my opinions and maybe sway you one way or another if you weren’t sure about reading something. I like this blog. I like having a place to share thoughts about my reading habits that isn’t on social media because I’m not the best at that. It’s not like I wasn’t reading amazing books either. I read some incredible books that I want to yell about so fingers crossed tapping into that passion will get me through.

The problem is, and I think it’s been mentioned enough times, the past few years have been hard. Hard for everyone and for a myriad of reasons. The reason I officially stopped in 2021 was because everything was getting too much and this was something I could step back from to make sure everything else ran smoothly. I genuinely didn’t know how hard it would be to come back to. The want was there, the desire, but actually making myself do it took more effort than I knew.

I have worked out that if I want to keep this going I need to prioritise it, and find the joy again in writing reviews. I still don’t think I will be able to do review requests again because being inundated with emails filled me with stress, and I felt pressured to say yes to everyone and in the end it fell apart. But I hope I am still sharing some lesser known books with you alongside the familiar and popular titles. One day I do want to return to them because honestly some of my favourite books were discovered through people putting their faith in me and asking for a review.

There’s good news in amongst all this retrospection. This year I am celebrating my tenth anniversary and I have two giveaways to celebrate. I will be doing my regular giveaway, but I will also be doing a destash of my shelves like I did a few years ago with my Loved Loot collection. I have been pruning my shelves of books I got in giveaways, bought with good intentions but never read, listened to the audio and don’t need the hard copy, books I read once and don’t need, even a few books I bought with good intentions at writer’s festivals and never touched. More details will follow but that is one of my plans for this year.

So that is all to come. I am putting a lot of faith that this year will not have quite so many…bumps in the road shall we say as the previous three years because this always brought me great joy and I hope in a small way it does for you too.

Dishing the Dirt (#26) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 14th September 2015 (print)/11 February 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 304/6 hrs and 29 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★  – 1 Star

A therapist had moved into the village of Carsely and Agatha Raisin hates her. Not only was this therapist, Jill Davent, romancing Agatha’s ex-husband, but she had dug up details of Agatha’s slum background.

Added to that, Jill was counselling a woman called Gwen Simple from Winter Parva and Agatha firmly believed Gwen to have assisted her son in some grisly murders, although has no proof she had done so.

A resentment is different from a dislike and needs to be shared, so as the friendship between James and Jill grows stronger, the more Agatha does to try to find out all she can about her. When Jill is found strangled to death in her office two days’ later, Agatha finds herself under suspicion – and must fight to clear her name.

I have seen a few reviews mention an Agatha Raisin drinking game but you could also do a Bingo based on the formulaic events that happen in each book. I certainly think it would be a more interesting way of experiencing the series.

The stories are still going the same unengaging way – some character thinks they can solve the murder before Agatha or the police and then they get killed before they tell anyone. Everyone is rude and instantly jumps to abusing people and calling them a variety of colourful names. The immediate answer to any inconvenience is to threaten to kill someone which means of course that someone will end up dead in the next chapter. It’s the same every time and while formula is good, and expected in a cosy, there is no creativity, imagination, or variation on any of these. The plot is all over the place, there are random characters and scenes and none of it was important and if it was it was so late in the story I didn’t care. It’s flat and uninteresting and grating on the nerves.

I can’t decide if Beaton wants only murders now and minimal village life because there’s no village normalcy anymore. No ladies society, no fetes and no village people other than token characters like Mrs Bloxby who only pops in as a plot device half the time.

What doesn’t help is Penelope Keith, who normally is fabulous, has the same voice for many of these characters so they all screech in the same way. I guess when all the characters start being abusive and screeching you only can screech in one way.

Honestly the only saving grace is Charles who flits in and out as he pleases but he speaks his mind and there was a time a few books back I thought he and Agatha were going to get together which would do the series a huge favour. Charles is a delightful character, he has his flaws but the banter and dynamic between himself and Agatha is always enjoyable and I love seeing their interactions.

I’ve definitely decided that Beaton hates these characters and writing these books. It’s the only explanation for why they are so flat and feel like scenes tacked on to one another with no thought or care. I know Agatha’s behaviour and the outlandish behaviour by the entire cast are meant to be humorous but they end up making me angry at the stupidity of it all. Agatha hates everyone, all her friends annoy her and the solutions to everything are either get married and give up her job, or go on holiday and get over the trauma of nearly being murdered. Because when you’re attacked and almost strangled to death in your own kitchen it’s brushed over as a non-event and people expect you to recover immediately from your trauma. The fact Agatha is still shaken by it is the only redeemable part of her character because it shows she’s not completely hollow.

As if it couldn’t get any worse, Beaton, who published this book in 2016, has a scene with a man who initially is described as liking to wear dresses, but by the time Agatha meets him, she insults him, and Beaton can’t decide if he is a man who likes dresses, a cross dresser, or a trans woman because in the space of a few sentences she infers all three.

I had to pause the book in disgust when the word “Tranny” was used because it was so offensive, even if it was in relation to a shop name. This is unacceptable even for Agatha Raisin. The fact the sentence finishes with “for people like you” and then this person thanks her for helping them is pushing even my limits to finish this godawful series. The term transvestite is repeatedly used after this and it’s just wholly unpleasant. The whole series is filled with offensive terms, the earlier books repeatedly had Agatha threatening people by saying they should get AIDS so it isn’t beyond Beaton to use this kind of language but it was a surprise given this wasn’t the early 90s but published in a time I thought people, or even a few editors if she even uses them anymore, would know better.

I’m repeating myself here but the clear downfall of these stories was definitely extending them from four to six hours, or whatever the page length equivalent was. The extra length has completely lessened their quality. When they were shorter they were nice and concise mysteries which wrapped up while still having character depth and exploration. Now they are longer and the stories are drawn out, when the main mystery is solved another pops up and the remainder two hours is spent dragging it out. I also think as Ms Beaton ages her own opinions are bleeding onto the page and it ends up being a long rant about society and the youth and how no one is a lady anymore. It’s amazing she has time to fit a murder in amongst that.

You can purchase Dishing the Dirt via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Blood of an Englishman (#25) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 16th September 2014 (print)/11 February 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 294/6 hrs and 18 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Even though Agatha Raisin loathes amateur dramatics, her friend Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar’s wife, has persuaded her to support the local pantomime. Stifling a yawn at the production of “Babes in the Woods,” Agatha watches the baker playing an ogre strut and threaten on the stage, until a trapdoor opens and the Ogre disappears in an impressive puff of smoke. Only he doesn’t re-appear at final curtain.

Surely this isn’t the way the scene was rehearsed? When it turns out the popular baker has been murdered, Agatha puts her team of private detectives on the case. They soon discover more feuds and temperamental behaviour in amateur theatrics than in a professional stage show—and face more and more danger as the team gets too close to the killer.

You can really start to see a lack of care in these stories. New characters that can be introduced and removed in one book, no need for backstory or cementing into the established world, simply in and out and on to the next thing. I had to reread this story because I couldn’t recall much of what happens and having reread it I can attest that is because nothing actually happens. It’s a boring story, nothing is memorable and the investigation is filled with a lot of nothing that can’t keep your attention. The plot seems to be random scenes pieced together that have the thinnest connecting thread if any.

Clearly Beaton has given up the complex community of earlier books and now focuses on these extra characters but none of them have any depth. Most pop in an out in one book and they are as shallow and ludicrous as each other. The only characters that keep being included are the detective staff, though less so in this story, and Charles. Beaton includes familiar characters as a reminder that they still exist but they serve no real purpose to the story. James is barely mentioned, Mrs Bloxby has a few scenes but it feels more like a reminder that other people live in this village than actually contribute to the story.

The descriptions are repetitions of the same ones trotted out book after book. Honestly if I hear one more time about Agatha and her long legs and glossy hair I think I might just scream. I have no other image of this woman except long legs and glossy hair. I think somewhere a few books back there might have been a mention of “frumpy” in her lesser moments but what does that even mean? Beaton seems to have found her descriptors and refused to budge. No matter how much time has passed these are the facts of these characters and nothing else will be said of them. Small, bear-like eyes, long legs, glossy hair. Not to mention twenty five books in and Agatha is still in her early fifties.

Beaton’s opinions are out in force again about the state of society as well as whatever the current issues are at time of writing making casual comments about sexual assault and paedophilia, much like the earlier books she jumps to reducing serious issues to crass comments by characters. The mystery almost didn’t matter as a lot of time was focused on Agatha and her “unfortunate obsessions” as they’re called (of which there are many this time around) where she lusts after the latest attractive man she comes across. You’d also think a book that had such a gruesome death would be more interesting but I’ve expected too much.

Moving away from the set cast of characters is a hindrance because there isn’t a lot to keep your attention. New people who haven’t been well developed don’t hold your interest if you aren’t going to include well known characters that can tie things together. It’s another book following the usual formula with the addition of having random scenes added in that serve little to no purpose. It’s a shame Penelope Keith had to keep reading these if I’m honest.

You can purchase The Blood of an Englishman via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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