Cushla's books in 2019

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Cushla's books in 2019

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1cushlareads
Modificato: Dic 28, 2019, 1:35pm

I'm back for my 11th year in this group, and repeating the same things I said this time last year. My thread is likely to suffer from neglect but I will try to get here more than in 2018! I can't imagine not having a thread on here, even if I ignore it for weeks on end when real life gets in the way.
I used to get pretty close to 75 books per year, but have got nowhere near this for the last few years. Last year was the lowest ever at 15 books - eek.

I'm not going to predict a quieter year this year, because it never seems to happen. At the moment we are in the middle of school holidays but by the end of January I'll be back to being crazy - I teach maths and am now Assistant Head of Department in a big, busy high school. Reading has taken a back seat in favour of work, hanging out with my family and making maths videos for my students. (Yep, they're on YT but I recommend them only if you suffer from insomnia or have run out of books to read.) I also spent tons of time near the end of last year following the US midterms and generally catching up on newspaper and Twitter reading and podcasts instead of book reading.

I read a mix of stuff - politics, history, spy novels, crime, and fiction. My favourite 3 books last year were Janesville by Amy Goldstein, The War that Ended the Peace by Margaret MacMillan, and and Days without End by Sebastian Barry. I'll check in on the Non-Fiction Challenge and the American author challenge but am hopeless with planned reads so will just see if anything I'm reading fits in.

At the moment I'm in the middle of The World As it Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes, which I am really enjoying.

And now it's time to go visit some of your threads and say Happy New Year.

Books read in 2019

1. The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes 5 stars

2. The Death of the Fronsac by Neal Ascherson - 5 stars

3. Christine Falls by Benjamin Black - 4 1/2 stars

(I am not usually this generous with stars - I'm just having a very good start to 2019!)

4. The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig - 4 stars

5. How to Survive a Plague by David France - 5 stars +++

6. The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre - 5 stars

7. An Honest Man by Ben Fergusson - 4 1/2 stars

*pretty sure I've forgotten a couple of books

8. Sovietistan by Erika Flatland - 3 1/2 stars

9. The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power - 4 stars

10. Prophecy by S J Parris - 3 1/2 stars

11. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker - 5 stars

12. Slow Horses by Mick Herron - 4 1/2 stars

13. Dead Lions by Mick Herron - 4 stars

I know this list makes me look like an overly generous reviewer, but I think what's happening is that I haven't been finishing books unless they are stupendously good this year!

2charl08
Gen 3, 2019, 2:10am

Cushla! Happy New one, new year and congrats (I think) on the promotion - or did I just miss that this had already happened- if so, sorry!

I haven't read the MacMillan you mention, but want to, and Janesville is new to me. Love Barry!

3PaulCranswick
Gen 3, 2019, 3:27am



Happy 2019
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised

I look forward to keeping up with you, Cushla, this year.

4Ameise1
Gen 3, 2019, 4:41am

Happy reading in 2019, Cushla.

5lauralkeet
Gen 3, 2019, 8:50am

Happy new year, Cushla. I'm glad you will be with us again, in whatever way works for you.

6ChelleBearss
Gen 3, 2019, 9:44am

Happy 2019, Cushla!

7m.belljackson
Gen 3, 2019, 9:55am

>1 cushlareads:

Love Math Reviews! How do we find yours on Youtube? Thank you.

8drneutron
Gen 3, 2019, 2:27pm

Welcome back! Math vids? I'm in!

9roundballnz
Gen 3, 2019, 3:26pm

Happy New year ...... enjoy the summer reading time

10FAMeulstee
Gen 3, 2019, 5:06pm

Happy reading in 2019, Cushla!

11richardderus
Gen 3, 2019, 5:14pm

Hi Cushla, happy you're home again.

12Berly
Modificato: Gen 4, 2019, 12:00am

13paulstalder
Gen 5, 2019, 7:47am



Happy new year.
I wish, that you may find a good and solid path in 2019

14cushlareads
Gen 5, 2019, 7:17pm

Thanks for all the New Year greetings. I've finished my first book, which means I have only 14 to go to catch up to 2018... last year I started with a tome but will be avoiding long books for a while.

The World as It Is by Ben Rhodes was a 5 star read, one that had me reading it whenever I had 5 spare minutes. Rhodes started out in Obama's campaign team, then became his speechwriter, national security advisor and friend. This book tells the story of his 8 years in government. It has a really nice blend of foreign policy stuff, observations about what it was like working for Obama, and personal details. Tons of things that I had half-followed when they were news make much more sense now. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot about Libya, Syria, Cuba (Rhodes negotiated the thawing in US-Cab relations), Israel, and Russia. So, if you were a fan of the West Wing or like following current events and don't like the current state of US politics, I think you'll love this book. Rhodes is half of one of a great podcast that I've recently discovered - PodSavetheWorld - which was an extra bonus.

As a strange follow-up to the book, I have spent several hours playing this addictive quiz game about how many countries of the world you can name.

https://www.sporcle.com/games/g/world - my best score is now 190 but I keep forgetting some of the little islands in the Caribbean. Warning...if you click on this link you too might waste your life.

>7 m.belljackson: and >8 drneutron: Marianne and Jim, if you google my first name then YT then maths videos you will find them. I'd rather that students *don't* find my thread on here, not that I post anything exciting, but if you do go watch, please can you not leave any comments that might link me back to LT?

>2 charl08: Charlotte, I have several other Barry novels on the shelves (The Temporary Gentleman and The Secret Scripture) and will be trying to find them. We still have some double shelving going on! And yep, the promotion is pretty new - school will be busy soon.

15m.belljackson
Gen 5, 2019, 7:46pm

>14 cushlareads:

Impressive! Thank you for 5 STAR Teaching!

16cushlareads
Gen 5, 2019, 10:13pm

>15 m.belljackson: Ha ha which ones were you looking at? Some calculus ones? Glad you liked them.

17Deern
Gen 6, 2019, 3:09am

Checking anf wishing you a very Happy New Year before clicking the quiz link. :)
And then off to some maths..

18labfs39
Gen 12, 2019, 9:15am

I, too, can't imagine not having a thread on LT, despite not getting to it often. I'm also celebrating 11 years on LT (and so is arubabookwoman). How did you find LT? I joined after hearing an NPR story.

19m.belljackson
Gen 15, 2019, 4:56pm

>16 cushlareads:

Yes, the Calculus - reminding many of us of those challenges.

20richardderus
Gen 17, 2019, 10:45am

>14 cushlareads: oh dear a knowledge quiz oh gawd I'm doomed

21arubabookwoman
Gen 18, 2019, 1:40pm

Hi Cushla--I'm spending a bit of time perusing threads of people I'm familiar with from past years. I didn't really have anything to say, but I saw Lisa mentioned my name >18 labfs39:, so I thought I'd at least say hi.

Even though I didn't get to meet you when we went to New Zealand in 2011 (I did get to meet Aviatkh (Kerry) and a couple of other LTers in Auckland who are no longer active) I really loved NZ and hope to get back one day!

22PaulCranswick
Gen 20, 2019, 4:45am

I hope you have had a great weekend, Cushla.

23cushlareads
Gen 25, 2019, 5:16pm

Hello everyone - Nathalie and Richard, I hope you escaped the countries of the world quiz more quickly than I managed! Paul, yes I had a really good weekend and now it is the next one already!

>21 arubabookwoman: arubabookwoman thank for posting - it's nice to have thread visitors. I remember you coming to New Zealand but it doesn't seem like it was 8 years ago. If you get back here one day I'll show you the fine bookshops of Wellington.

>18 labfs39: Lisa, I have tried before to remember how I found LT - all I remember is being wildly excited about it and entering all my books over a couple of evenings. Maybe it was from Amazon? It definitely wasn't word of mouth because I didn't know anyone on here before I got here. And I didn't post in the forums much at all for a few years. It was back in the day when Amazon suggesting book recommendations to me seemed like the most incredible thing. (I still have that reaction to Spotify when it finds all my favourite songs.)

We've had 6 days away at Suzuki camp - got back on Monday and I am still doing the laundry! It was fantastic as usual. The kids played their violins non-stop, did lots of bike riding, swimming and hanging out. We've been going for 7 years now and it is the highlight of our year - we are really good friends with lots of the other families in the community. About 200 kids were there. The weather cooperated, the tent was great, and now we are ready to start the year. School is in full swing although the students don't come back till this week and teaching starts again for real on Friday.

As usual, I took 3 books away to camp as well as my Kindle but this year I actually made some progress on one of them because it was so good.

Book 3 - Christine Falls by Benjamin Black - 4 1/2 stars



I have been buying up Benjamin Black books for several years since the owner of Marsden Books recommended him to me, especially when I had mentioned that I loved John Banville's The Untouchable. Regular thread visitors will know that I am a shocker for buying more than I read, so they'd just sat here till I was in the mood. It turned out I hadn't bought the first one so I had it out of the library as an e-book. For once, I read it before it was due back. It must be holidays.

I loved this book - so much that I have just spent half an hour wandering the shelves to find The Silver Swan and have now got T and T helping me look. I have found 4 other Benjamin Blacks but need the 2nd one!

This is the first book in the Quirke series. Quirke is a pathologist in Dublin in the 1950s with a serious drinking problem. The book moves between Dublin and Boston and the reviews are **very** mixed. It's more like a novel about Ireland, morality, Quirke's family and the Catholic church than a mystery, and I think that's why a lot of people have given it 1 or 2 stars. I nearly went with 5, but when Sarah tells Quirke that Phoebe is his daughter not Mal's, I spent the next 30 pages finding this extremely unrealistic. Wouldn't Quirke at the time not have noticed that Sarah wasn't pregnant then suddenly had a daughter, at exactly the same time her sister Delia had given birth? Etc. It just didn't quite work. But it got wrapped up by the next revelation, that Quirke knew all along. . The writing is beautiful and the characters well developed, especially Quirke. It starts out with a very drunk Quirke finding his brother in his mortuary writing up a report on a corpse.

I'm really glad I didn't start this series part way through, because there's a lot of complicated family stuff that I can tell will affect the other books.

If anyone here has read the rest of the series, please tell me if they stay this good!

24richardderus
Gen 25, 2019, 6:00pm

>23 cushlareads: I stank at that quiz because timed tests give me serious anxiety. Something I never knew before getting my hypothyroid condition diagnosed.

*owowow* Book-bulleted by Benjamin Black's series. Love that name, "Quirke."

Happy weekend! Hope your summer is going swimmingly. (pun optional)

25Berly
Feb 4, 2019, 3:45am

Your vacation sounds absolutely wonderful! I hope Benjamin Black continues to deliver -- Sounds like a great series. Did you find the second book? Have a great week!

26PaulCranswick
Feb 5, 2019, 8:41pm

The Quirke books are much more readable than most of John Banville's more serious fiction, although, as far as "thrillers" go they are still quite serious.

27cushlareads
Feb 8, 2019, 7:06pm

Hi Richard, Kim and Paul!

Richard I'm sorry you get anxious from timed tests. But just think - hours of your life not wasted on them!

Kim, the holiday was lovely and seems like a while ago already. School is back in full swing now. Yes, I found the second book and have just finished it this morning. It was even bleaker than the first, but I have pulled the third one off the shelf.

Paul, the only serious John Banville that I've read is The Untouchable which would probably be on my top 10 novels list. I haven't tried The Sea or any others by him. Which ones did you enjoy the most?

Book 4: The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black - 3 1/2 stars - good enough to keep going with, not as good as Christine Falls

In this book Quirke has an old acquaintance from his first year at Med School contact him about his wife's death. (This happens on about page 4 - so I guess it's a spoiler - but not really.) He can't help investigate. Once again, the writing is lovely and the depiction of Dublin in the 1950s really vivid. But you need to be in the mood for very creepy characters (not Quirke), drugs, sexual repression, and a generally un-joy-filled read. I enjoyed Christine Falls more but have got Elegy for April ready to start this afternoon.

Back later - got to do some school stuff.

28paulstalder
Feb 23, 2019, 4:28pm


I wish you a blessed weekend - soaring like this jackdaw

29Berly
Mar 23, 2019, 12:55am

Hello? How is life treating you?

30paulstalder
Mar 23, 2019, 4:38pm



wish you a nice, relaxing weekend

31PaulCranswick
Apr 6, 2019, 5:40am

>27 cushlareads: I think I like his Quirke books best, in truth, Cushla. More accessible.

Have a lovely weekend.

32paulstalder
Giu 30, 2019, 3:28pm


I wish you a good start into July with a wave of a popcorn

33cushlareads
Ago 17, 2019, 5:06pm

Thank you Paul, Paul and Kim for the turtles, popcorn and messages! I'm back after 5 months. Nothing wrong, except an out of control workload at school, a lovely holiday in California during the Term 1 holidays which meant I did no work at all and felt in catch-up mode for half of Term 2, and the usual everyday life with 2 parents working very full time jobs with 2 busy kids. School is great, just too much sometimes.

Anyway now it's Term 3 and I've realised my reading and free time is gradually getting a bit better, so I've updated my book list to a whopping 6 books read this year! But they have all been great. I think it's my lowest ever. As usual there are a few in progress too.

I'm not going to attempt decent reviews just yet but I will try to visit a few threads to say hi.

Have just finished An Honest Man by Ben Fergusson and loved it - it's set in Berlin in 1989. The main characters are Ralph Doersam and his group of friends who are about to head off to university. I couldn't put it down. But if you're thinking about reading it, avoid ALL blurbs or reviews! I don't think it's out in the US yet from what I've seen on Twitter but hopefully it will be soon. I didn't realise it's kind of in the same series as The Spring of Kasper Meier, which is sitting unread on my Kindle.

34paulstalder
Ago 18, 2019, 3:10am

Welcome back, Cushla. It s great to hear from you again and to learn that there was not a bad situation which kept you away. I hope you still find time together as a family

35labfs39
Ago 18, 2019, 4:06pm

>33 cushlareads: I'm glad the books you have been able to read are all good ones. The Spy and the Traitor is one Macintyre book that I don't have yet. So many of his have been good. I'll look for this one too; especially with a five star rating from you!

36figsfromthistle
Ago 19, 2019, 8:52am

Welcome back!

37Familyhistorian
Ago 21, 2019, 5:10pm

Such excellent reasons for not LTing and reading copious amounts of books, Cushla. Good to see that you have a bit of breathing room from all the busyness now.

38cushlareads
Ago 23, 2019, 7:34pm

Hello Lisa, Paul, Meg and Figsfromthistle! (Figsfromthistle it is really nice to have a new visitor - I will come and look for your thread now.)

I am flitting between books at the moment. I went slightly less crazy at the annual City Mission bookfair last weekend but still came home with quite a few. The first one I've started it My Promised Land by Ari Shavit, which I'd never heard of but is looking like it's going to be really good so far. It's ages since I read a book set in Israel or about the Middle East. And the other one I've started is Shadowplay by Tim Marshall, about Kosovo and Serbia and Slobodan Milosevic. It's a reprint from 2002, just re-released... I am sucker for a nice bright cover with maps on it.

And I know my work stress levels are dropping when I can happily read two such depressing tales at once!

Lisa - I have still got a few Ben Macintyre books to go too, but he has yet to disappoint.

39brenzi
Ago 25, 2019, 5:55pm

Well I found you Cushla. I've read a couple of Ben Macintyre books and have a couple more on my Kindle. I should read one of them sometime soon because he's always good. Agent Zig Zag was a favorite. If you're looking for a good book about life in Jerusalem from the Palestinian pov I highly recommend Second Person Singular by Sayed Kashua. Could not put it down. Good to see you on the treads again.

40Berly
Ott 8, 2019, 7:39pm

Just keeping current here. Hope you find time for LT again soon! Says the woman who has been largely MIA these last two months. : )

41cushlareads
Ott 12, 2019, 4:44pm

Ha ha Kim - I disappeared again. School went nuts with exam writing, marking, debating finals, references for seniors...

Very few books getting read here but hopefully SOON.

Bonnie - Second Person Singular sounds really good. Will see if it's in the library (there's no Kindle edition).

42Familyhistorian
Ott 13, 2019, 9:32pm

I hope you get some reading time soon, Cushla. I think you are due!

43cushlareads
Nov 8, 2019, 12:47am

Here again at last and yes Meg my reading time is reappearing! I finished Sovietistan last week and now I'm in the middle of Samantha Power's The Education of an Idealist. If you, like me, miss the Obama administration, it's a good read. And it goes well with Ben Rhodes' The World as it Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House - my first book this year and an unputdownable one.

Sovietistan by Erika Fatland was an impulse buy at Vic Books. It's part travelogue, part history of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Turkmenistan chapter came first and was when I was insanely busy at school, so I think I re-read the same pages several times. Lots of interesting history and anecdotes, but a wee bit long and I'd have liked a bit more about how she planned the trip and why she chose the route etc. Can't quite put my finger on what was missing (still got brain fog from doing a lot of maths this week in the lead up to our senior exams).

Am also enjoying catching up on a lot of podcasts and news and getting my head out from under a pile of rocks.

44Berly
Nov 8, 2019, 5:13am

>41 cushlareads: >43 cushlareads: Oooh! She is coming back! Hope the math brain fog clears and you climb out from under the rocks. : )

45labfs39
Nov 8, 2019, 12:57pm

Hurrah to returning reading time!

46Oberon
Nov 11, 2019, 2:55pm

>43 cushlareads: I am nearly done with The Education of an Idealist too and agree with you about the Ben Rhodes book too. One of my favorites this year.

47ChelleBearss
Dic 23, 2019, 2:55pm



Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

48PaulCranswick
Dic 25, 2019, 8:53pm



Thank you for keeping me company in 2019.......onward to 2020.

49AMQS
Dic 26, 2019, 2:17am




Merry Christmas to you and your family!

50Berly
Dic 26, 2019, 11:52pm

Best wishes this holiday season!! See you in 2020!


51cushlareads
Dic 29, 2019, 3:01pm

Hi everyone and thanks Kim, Anne, Paul and Chelle for the Christmas greetings! We've had a lovely quiet Christmas at home with my parents and sister-in-law and husband. And I've managed to read 4 books in the last week, which is nearly a third of my year's reading...

This tells me two things... a) I am working far too hard at school and b) I am picking the wrong books while I'm teaching, because I keep getting stuck in massive non-fiction books for months at a time. I got about 30% of the way through Diarmaid MacCulloch's excellent biography of Thomas Cromwell and am still going on it, but it takes me so much longer to read. Every hour or so I tell the kids that I am now up to June 1535... July 1535... so for now it is sitting unloved on the Kindle while I switch to fiction.

>46 Oberon: Erik, I finished The Education of an Idealist and added it to my list of good books about better times in US politics. One of the best things to come out of the Ben Rhodes book for me has been finding Tommy Vietor's Pod Save the World podcast, which is now one of my favourites, and some of the other Crooked Media ones. I don't know what I'm going to do when school goes back - I can't keep up with all the episodes of podcasts that I download.

Anyway - here are the four books that I finished...

10. Prophecy by S J Parris - the 2nd in the Bruno Giordano series, set in Elizabethan England. Bruno is staying with the French Ambassador and finds himself in the middle of a plot to get rid of Elizabeth. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and have got book 3 ready to go on the Kindle.

11. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker - 5 stars and the best novel I've read this year, ha ha, out of all seven of them. I bought this about 6 months ago form VicBooks (the fantastic university bookshop about 10 minutes from us that is very bad for my wallet) then wasn't in the mood to read what looked like a pretty grim read. It's the story of the Trojan War, retold from the perspective of Briseis and the other women who are taken as slaves by the Greeks. I loved this book and couldn't put it down. If you loved The Song of Achilles, then you have probably already read The Silence of the Girls, but if not then I highly recommend it.

12. and 13. Slow Horses and Dead Lions by Mick Herron - the first two in a series of 6 books. The "slow horses" are a group of MI5 agents who have stuffed up somehow and are still employed but on mind-numbingly boring work designed to encourage them to quit. Their boss is Jackson Lamb, who is so unlikeable that he's likeable. I'm enjoying these so much that I have raided the library shelves and got out books 3,4,5 and 6 all at once. (In my defence, there were multiple copies of some of those...)

I'm going to set up a new thread in the hope that 2020 is a better reading and posting year!

52PaulCranswick
Dic 31, 2019, 6:59am

I also loved Silence of the Girls, Cushla and would place it at number 1 of my reads too. The Mick Herron series is also one that I need to get back to.

53PaulCranswick
Dic 31, 2019, 6:59am



Another resolution is to keep up in 2020 with all my friends on LT. Happy New Year!

54cushlareads
Dic 31, 2019, 2:25pm

Happy new year Paul! It's January 1st here and I will go set up my 2020 thread.

55Oberon
Gen 2, 2020, 6:56pm

>51 cushlareads: I need to go looking for that podcast now!