Friday, July 3, 2020

What did I read in June 2020?

I read 10 books in June. Half were crime fiction, half were nonfiction or other genres. Some of my reads were for the 20 Books of Summer list or for my Venture Forth Summer Reading prompts, but four were spur of the moment reads. Four books were published in 2018, 2019, or 2020, and that is very unusual for me. 

Only three books were from my TBR pile. One was borrowed from my son, one from my husband. The remainder were new purchases in 2020.

I am not sure I am happy with the low number of vintage or older mysteries I am reading, but I had a great reading month overall.


North Korea Journal (2019) by Michael Palin
This is a day by day diary of Michael Palin's visit to North Korea for a travel documentary. We watched the documentary after we had all read the book. I knew little about North Korea. The documentary was not an in-depth analysis, but what I learned in this book and the documentary was an eye-opener for me. It was a good read. 
Flu (1999) by Gina Kolata
The subtitle of this book is "The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It." There is much more time spent on the search to find a specimen of the virus strain in the years following the pandemic than on the pandemic itself. I cannot fault the book for that since it is plainly stated on the cover, but I did expect more time spent on the events in 1918 than on medical research during the next eight decades. Don't get me wrong, it is all very interesting and well written, a compelling read. I am now reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry, published in 2004.

Historical Fiction

Marking Time (1991) by Elizabeth Jane Howard
The Cazalet Chronicles is a series of five books that follow the members of one family from 1937 just prior to World War II through 1957. The first book, The Light Years, covers 1937-1938. There is large cast; the parents plus four children (three brothers, one unmarried sister) and the grandchildren, who range from 5 or 6 to teenage at the start of the series. Marking Time begins in September 1939 and ends in winter 1941. It focuses most on the teenage grandchildren, telling the story from their point of view. Most of the family is living outside of London due to the bombing, although the oldest son is running the family business in London. I am enjoying this series and hope to do a post on the first two books soon.

Science Fiction

The Consuming Fire
 (2018) by John Scalzi

This is the second book in a science fiction trilogy about an empire of worlds connected by travel via The Flow. My review of the first book in the series, The Collapsing Empire, is here. I enjoyed this sequel just as much as the first and will be reading the third book soon.

Dragonsdawn (1988) by Anne McCaffrey

I am new to the Dragonriders of Pern series. The series can be read in chronological order or publication order. I guess you could just hop around but I would not. Richard Robinson at Tip the Wink explains the differences in his post Reading Pern. Dragonsdawn is the first novel chronologically and it worked well as a starting place for me. 

Crime Fiction

Slight Mourning (1975) by Catherine Aird
#6 in the Inspector Sloan series. Inspector C.D. Sloan is not a flashy policeman. He quietly investigates crimes with the "help" of his usual sidekick Constable Crosby. In this story, they look into the death of a man who dies in a car crash after a dinner party. I plan to read all of the books by Catherine Aird that I can find. I think this is the first time we meet Sloan's wife. I do like to know a bit about a policeman's personal life. 

The Ivory Dagger (1950) Patricia Wentworth

#18 in the Miss Silver series. For those not familiar with the Miss Silver mysteries, Maud Silver is an elderly sleuth. The stories are similar to the Miss Marple series but Miss Silver is actually a private detective. I enjoy these stories. My review here.

An Air That Kills (2019) by Christine Poulson

#3 in the Katie Flanagan series. Flanagan is a  medical researcher and this latest book in the series is very topical, about problems in a lab where research on the influenza virus is taking place. It is a fantastic book, I loved it. My review here.

Aunt Dimity's Death (1992) by Nancy Atherton

Lori Shepherd thought that Aunt Dimity was a fictional character that her mother invented for bedtime stories when she was a child, until she gets a letter from a law firm telling her that she is named in Dimity Westwood's will. In order to get her legacy, Lori has to go to Dimity's cottage in England and research the letters between her mother and Dimity. This is a very light read and not much mystery to it but I did enjoy it and I may read more in the series. (There are now 24 books.)

The Last Tourist (2020) by Olen Steinhauer

#4 in the Milo Weaver series, which was originally intended to be a trilogy. The first three books were published in 2009, 2010, and 2012, and eight years later Steinhauer adds a further story. When the series starts, Milo Weaver is a "Tourist," working for the Department of Tourism, a clandestine group of CIA-trained assassins. I liked this one. Olen Steinhauer cannot write a bad book in my opinion. But Books 1 and 3 in the series were the best ones.



Cath said...

I think I need to get to The Cazalet Chronicles as lots of people have recommended them to me and you make them sound good. I seem to be getting into these family type stories more these days. So pleased you're enjoying Pern.

TracyK said...

Cath, I definitely recommend the Cazalet books. I took a big chance and bought the whole series because each book was fairly expensive, and luckily I was very happy with them. It is very hard to describe them without running on and on, so I hope I can do an adequate review when I get to it.

I have ordered two more Pern books, The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall and Dragonflight. Not sure which I will read next, I will decide once both books have come.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm impressed with the variety of what you read, Tracy. I'm interested in reading Flue, not just because it's timely, but also because I'm really interested in that era. Very glad, to see Christine Poulson's work here - she's quite talented. And you remind me that it's been a while since I read Wentworth. I wish I could wedge more time in for re-reads...

Rick Robinson said...

Nice. I've read both of the SF books you list, and the Atherton, the latter many years ago. I have, and have read a couple, of Aird's books and remember liking them. Probably time I tried another.

TracyK said...

Margot, This month I really had some variety, and got in several genres. Both of the 1918 pandemic books I have read are very good, not dry at all, if you are interested in the topic.

I hope to get to a couple of Poulson's earlier books while I wait for the next Katie Flanagan book.

TracyK said...

Rick, I do want to mix more science fiction in with my mystery reading, and I think both Scalzi and McCaffrey will keep me busy for a while. I am very fond of Catherine Aird's books, just the right blend of mystery and village life for me.

CLM said...

Several favorites here! I love Catherine Aird, going back to my first one, A Most Contagious Game, which introduced me to Nicholas Owen, builder of 16th-century priest holes, and is still my favorite. I was surprised recently to see there are a lot of recent titles I had completely missed. I am also a huge Patricia Wentworth fan, as I may have mentioned, ever since a friend of my sister's lent her She Came Back when we were teens.

I like the Cazalet Chronicles although I liked the first one the best. I also like Cynthia Harrod-Eagles series covering roughly the same time frame.

I read most of the Gina Kolata book on the Flu when it came out (she was the science writer for the NYT so it got a lot of attention) and I was living in NYC then.

I read all the Pern books (or at least I think so) one summer when I was in college. I enjoyed them although got a bit tired of the dragons after a while. I like YA fantasy better than adult fantasy, I suppose.

TracyK said...

Constance, I haven't read The Most Contagious Game yet. My husband and I both have copies, and he has read it but I have not. I am glad to know of another Patricia Wentworth fan. Now that I got back to reading her books I am really enjoying them.

I read a lot of the police procedural series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (Bill Slider) and have thought about trying the War at Home series, but never did.

I don't know if I will read all of the Pern series with all the other books I have but I will read several more of them for sure.

Neeru said...

What a wonderful reading month you had Tracy. I like these capsule reviews of yours.

TracyK said...

Neeru, it was a very good month for reading (and gardening). When I finally accepted that I cannot review every book I read, I decided to add some notes for each book, and usually try to indicate how I liked the book. Fortunately I enjoy most of the books I read.

Clothes in Books said...

Nice collection. I keep meaning to read more Oleg Steinhauer, I enjoyed the one of his I tried a while back.

Kay said...

It's been a lot of years since I read anything by Anne McCaffrey. I haven't read the Dragon books, but I did read The Rowan and Damia and that series. Not my usual at all, but I loved them. And Aunt Dimity's Death - I loved that series as well, though I am way, way behind in it. Think she's still writing it.

TracyK said...

Moira, I only have one full-length novel by Steinhauer left to read (and a couple of novellas as ebooks). I may have to resort to rereading his first series.

TracyK said...

Kay, I had wondered about her non-Pern books, but since there are so many Pern books, I will stick with those for a while. I also think Atherton is continuing to write the Aunt Dimity books, although I don't know whether I will ever read all of them.

Ed said...

I also read Palin's North Korea diary recently. It was a quick read since it was about half photos, but this was a case where the photos were also pretty interesting. They really gave you an idea of what he saw.

TracyK said...

Ed, it was a quick read, and interesting. I agree, the photos were good and useful.

col2910 said...

Seems like a decent month's reading Tracy. Probably only Steinhauer's book which has a major attraction for me I'm afraid. At least I'm not thinking about adding to my books though!

TracyK said...

I agree, Col, the Steinhauer book is the one for you. Although North Korea Journal is pretty good. I am just amazed at how many books I have bought recently. I can't stop.